Amarillo Area Schools Must Report Race and Sexuality Books for Academic Content Investigation | KAMR


AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR / KCIT) – Some schools in the Amarillo area were among those asked to browse their shelves for books on women, people of color, LGBTQ + people and health by a Texas lawmaker and report by November 12. However, with both the motives surrounding the survey and the consequences of not responding unclear, schools and families were left with a list of questions.

Part I | What is the investigation?

Representative for Texas Attorney General Candidate Matt Krause sent a letter to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and superintendents who started an investigation into the contents of the school district. Krause requested responses by November 12 from each school district regarding:

  • How many copies each district has books from this 16-page list of about 850 pounds.
  • The “amount of funds” spent by school districts was used to obtain the books on this list.
  • A note of “any other books or content” in the district, including the location and funding used by districts to obtain them, that address or include:
    • Human sexuality
    • Sexually transmitted diseases
    • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)
    • “Sexually explicit images”
    • “Graphic presentations of sexual behavior against the law”, or
    • “Contain material likely to make pupils feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or their sex or transmit that a pupil, because of their race or gender, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.

Many of the books on the list contain stories of people affected by or overcoming discrimination such as racism, sexism, homophobia or transphobia, from works of fiction to memoirs and anthologies. These include award-winning and best-selling books such as “The Confessions of Nat Turner” by William Styron and “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates or “LGBT Families” by Leanne K. Currie-McGhee , “The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to their Younger Selves” edited by Sarah Moon and “The Underground Guide to Teenage Sexuality: An Essential Handbook for Today’s Teens and Parents” by Michael J. Basso.

The list also included many books on topics such as health information, teenage pregnancy, adolescent legal rights, and debate guides on issues such as abortion.

It appeared that some of these books could be under study to find out whether they violate or not. House Bill 3979, the “Critical Racial Theory Law” intended to limit the way race-related subjects are taught in public schools. The law says that a teacher cannot “demand or be part of a course” a series of race-related concepts, including ideas that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or one. other sex ”or that someone is“ inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive ”based on their race or gender.

However, many aspects of Krause’s request were not explained in the text of the letter:

  • It was not clear from the letter whether books in a school – whether or not included in an official curriculum – that deal with topics such as race will be considered to violate HB 3979.
  • It was not clarified why books about sexually transmitted diseases or health information were on the list when official state guidelines for health education also cover and offer resources regarding these topics.
  • Because the letter said the report should include school library and the classroom collections, it was not clear whether Krause expected districts to detail which books were donated or purchased personally by teachers or parents, and from where.
  • It is not known what will happen to the districts that have the books, or other eligible works, on this list.

Part II | Local school districts contacted several school districts in the Amarillo area to find out if they were included in Krause’s letter and asked follow-up questions about the processes that might be involved in creating the requested reports.

Questions initially asked by

  • Has the district among the districts received the letter and given the deadline of November 12 to respond?
  • How would a district know what books / how many copies exist in its district, between teachers’ personal collections and library donations / interlibrary loans?
    • Are these books already cataloged somewhere?
  • How does a district decide what content might “contain material that might cause students to experience discomfort, guilt, anguish, or some other form of psychological distress because of their race or gender? “?

Responses given by the districts on November 1, the Monday following the sending of the letter:

  • Amarillo ISD
    • Amarillo ISD reported that it was among school districts given the letter and deadline of November 12.
      • The district offered “some information about its philosophy and process” in a statement:
        “As educators, we are keenly aware of the significant impact that developing a love of reading has on a child’s education and future success. This is why it is important that students have the flexibility to choose which books they want to read and that parents can have a say in what kind of content their child reads.
        Our school libraries are stocked with a large selection of books, and our students, like others across the Panhandle, have access to hundreds of thousands of titles through online resources like the Harrington Library Consortium. Books that are part of the AISD curriculum are typically vetted through a process that includes teachers, district and school administration, and anyone else with specific expertise in content to assess whether the material is suitable for age, level and content.
        As students choose books that suit their reading level and their tastes, interests and values, we want to encourage individual choice. We want parents to feel empowered by knowing what their child is reading and to know that we support them and want to work with them to guide those choices. This includes having conversations with their child’s teacher and the school to ensure that the books the student reads in or out of the classroom align with their family’s unique values. “
    • asked additional questions about the district’s book cataloging process, given that students can access works from across the Panhandle and through the Consortium. We also asked if, and how, the views of parents and families on books can be taken into account as the district reports.
  • Canyon ISD
  • ISD river route
    • River Road ISD told that It was not among school districts given the letter and deadline of November 12.
    • River Road ISD also reported that it has not seen any issues with content in its schools and has not received any complaints from parents.
    • However, River Road ISD also reported that any content presented to students by teachers requires administrative approval.
  • Highland Park ISD
    • Highland Park ISD told that It was not among school districts given the letter and deadline of November 12.
  • CIO of the bush
    • Bushland ISD, as of Monday, November 1, did not respond to questions from regarding the school content investigation.
  • Lubbock CIO
    • Lubbock ISD, as of Monday, November 1, did not respond to questions from regarding the school content investigation.
    • Although not in the Amarillo area, Lubbock ISD is a neighboring “5-A” district, which includes 4-A and 5-A schools such as Lubbock High School.
      • Amarillo ISD, the only district so far to tell that it has received the letter, is also a 5-A district. Meanwhile, Canyon ISD is a 4-A district, but notably includes 5-A schools such as Randall.
  • Districts that have publicly revealed receiving the letter include Fort Worth ISD and the Austin and Dallas school districts. If 5-A districts such as Lubbock were also on the list, it could give weight to the idea that Krause’s letter was only sent to 5-A school districts, whether or not those districts met. academic content issues in the recent past. .
    • If only 5-A school districts appear to have received the letter, despite Krause’s refusal to comment on which districts were reported or why, the trend could reveal a full list of Texas districts now facing a Nov. 12 deadline with unclear consequences at stake.

Part III | And now?

Due to the lack of clarity from districts, education and school agencies, state legislators and the law, it may be necessary to wait until mid-November to see the way forward for Krause’s new investigation. Even later, it may be January 2022 before new guidelines are released regarding what teachers, parents and students must expect to go through to comply with the new sports regulations.

Waiting for, public libraries can provide access digital and digital educational resources, as well as books through requests, reservations and interlibrary loan programs. The Texas State Library Archives Commission also provides portals such as TexQuest for literary, media, information, research and curriculum resources.

In addition, the US Department of Education published resources for students, including those who are part of the LGBTQ + community. The Civil Rights Office within DoEd has also collection of data and resources regarding accessibility and equity at school.

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