Gov. Greg Abbott told education officials Monday to come up with a statewide standard to prevent pornography and obscene materials from winding up in Texas public schools.

This directive comes a week after Abbott told the Texas Association of School Boards to determine the extent to which “pornography or other inappropriate content” exists in public schools. The TASB said it has no authority over schools and asked the governor to go to the Texas Education Agency.

“Instead of addressing the concerns of parents and shielding Texas children from pornography in public schools, the Texas Association of School Boards has attempted to wash its hands clean of the issue by abdicating any and all responsibility in the matter,” Abbott said.

Abbott sent his most recent request to TEA, Texas State Library and Archives Commission and State Board of Education. The governor cited two memoirs about LGBTQ characters in his letter.

“A growing number of parents of Texas students are rightfully outraged about highly inappropriate books and other content in public school libraries,” Gov. Abbott said in the letter. 

Gov. Abbot specifically referenced Gender Queer: a Memoir by Maia Kobabe. The Keller Independent School District recently removed this book from a school library after students and parents complained about illustrations.

The second book referenced by Abbott is In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado. Leander Independent School District recently removed several books, including In the Dream, from classrooms because of what they deemed as inappropriate content.

Neither Louise or El Campo ISD have these books in their library.

“We are a small, rural community with conservative values,” Louise Superintendent Garth Oliver said. “When the governor comes up with a list of books, we will certainly check our library for anything that would be considered pornographic or obscene. We want to keep our values.”

Both districts know all the books that are in their libraries because each publication placed in the school must go through a rigorous standard and be approved by the board.

“I have not received any complaints about the books in our libraries, and we haven’t heard anything from any state officials,” El Campo Superintendent Bob Callaghan said. “If and when we do hear from someone, we will evaluate their request and determine our response.”

Abbott isn’t the only Texas official wanting to know what is in the bookshelves of state public schools. Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, launched an inquiry last month into school districts books.

Krause identified 850 books he said could make some students feel “uncomfortable.” 

Rep. Krause made his inquiry through the Texas House General Investigating Committee, which he chairs.

Some are calling Krause’s inquiry cencorship.

“Republicans are whitewashing our history in an era when communities of color fueled explosive population growth in our diverse state,” Rep. Victoria Neave, D-Dallas, said. “Educators should be empowered to offer students literature and resources to inspire them with the knowledge that they are not alone.”

Rep. Neave works with Krause and is the vice-chair of the Texas House General Investigating Committee.

Some El Campo parents have taken a stand over the inquiry.

“If a book makes you feel uncomfortable, close it,” Holly Willis said. “Age appropriate is one thing, but censuring is an extremely dangerous, slippery slope.”

In statements late Monday, the heads of the TEA and SBOE said they would work alongside each other to develop a statewide standard as requested by the governor.

“State reps have clearly never been in the classroom (as the teacher)and they need to quit making rules and leave that to the teachers,” Kayla Babcock said. “If you don’t like a book, close it, put it back where you found it, and keep looking for something that sparks your interests.”

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