The Fort Worth school district is among the Texas districts that received a request for information related to more than 800 books that may be in libraries and classrooms.
Rep. Matt Krause, a Fort Worth Republican who chairs the House General Investigating Committee, sent an inquiry to a Texas Education Agency official and an unspecified number of school districts on Monday seeking information about the books with topics that include race and racism, the Black Lives Matter movement, sex and sexuality, abortion and LGBTQ rights.
He is asking districts to gather information on the number of listed books at schools, the cost for said books and information on other books in schools related to subjects like sexually transmitted diseases and “material that might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex.”
What’s not clear from the letter sent by email is exactly how many districts are subject to the request. The letter notes that “selected superintendents” were sent the inquiry, but it does not name the officials.
The Star-Telegram has reached out to dozens of districts asking whether they received the letter, including Tarrant County districts, five districts named in the letter as having removed books from classroom or library shelves, including Southlake Carroll, and some of the state’s districts with the most students.
Fort Worth superintendent Kent Scribner said in a statement said the district will comply with the inquiry.
“We follow all state-approved processes for selecting new textbooks for our students. We select from state-approved lists, organize a committee of experienced educators to review options, provide an input process for the public, and then make a final selection,” Scribner said. “As for other reading material, our lead professional school librarian monitors reviews of new titles and consults with national clearing houses as well as other school librarians, educators, and parents to provide the best and latest titles for our students. We have a process for parents to request a review of any title found in their campus library that may help present a concern.”
This is yet another attempt by a legislator eyeing higher office to shore up street cred with the political base by dividing parents and educators in the public education community.
Krause has previously declined to comment on the letter, including the inquiry’s intent, citing a pending or potential investigation. The Texas attorney general candidate did not return a text Wednesday seeking information on which districts are subject to the inquiry.
In a statement Wednesday, the Texas Education Agency did not say which school districts the request affects.
“TEA’s investigative authority arises under the provisions of the Texas Education Code,” the TEA statement reads. “Legislative investigatory authority falls outside of TEA’s purview, and any question regarding such authority should be directed to the committee. In addition, TEA does not comment on investigations that it may or may not have opened that haven’t yet closed.”
Other school districts that confirmed they received the letter include Katy, Austin, Leander, Cypress-Fairbanks, Northside, Spring Branch, Lake Travis, Conroe, Frisco, El Paso, Northwest, North East, Aldine, Eagle Mountain Saginaw and Hurst- Euless- Bedford.
“HEB ISD did receive the request and we are currently working with our attorneys to determine our next steps,” said HEB school district spokesperson Deanne Hullender in an email.
Districts that have not received the letter include Fort Bend, Azle, Birdville, Crowley, Everman, Lake Worth, White Settlement and Kennedale.
The request has received criticism from Texas educator groups, which have called the inquiry politically motivated.
“This is yet another attempt by a legislator eyeing higher office to shore up street cred with the political base by dividing parents and educators in the public education community,” Shannon Holmes, executive director of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, said in a Tuesday statement.
State Rep. Victoria Neave, a Dallas Democrat who serves as the House General Investigating Committee’s vice chair, said she does not endorse Krause’s inquiry in a Wednesday statement backed by several House caucuses. Neave described the request as “yet another attempt by Republicans to censor the voices of people of color.”
“Now more than ever, educators should be empowered to offer students literature and resources to inspire them with the knowledge that they are not alone in the challenges ahead,” she said. “Instead we are once-again reviving past wedge issues at the expense of educating our next generation of leaders and wasting taxpayer-dollars.”
Krause has asked for responses to his inquiry by Nov. 12.
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