Parents, Librarians Excluded From School Library Book Decisions

Houston parents and librarians are excluded from the decision-making process for books in their own school library.

Houston Libraries Changed For the School Year

For the remainder of the school year, the Houston school board will assume control over the district’s book evaluation process, effectively excluding parents, teachers, and librarians from the process. Instead, residents will be required to approach the board directly to have books reviewed.

On Monday evening, the board of trustees for the Spring Branch Independent School District (SBISD) in Houston voted 4-3 to restrict the initial two stages of the library book complaint process for the rest of the school year.

The decision means parents, teachers and librarians are excluded from weighing in.

“The temporary suspension is expected to run through the conclusion of this school year to assist SBISD’s administration with the high volume of book grievances and allow district educators to focus on academics and a strong finish to the 2022-23 school year,” the school district told news outlets in a statement. 

Books Make Things More Challenging

SBISD Superintendent Jennifer Blaine cited an overwhelming number of book challenges as the reason for the board’s involvement, stating that the district has received 50 challenges since August 2021, with over 40 filed this school year alone. These challenges have resulted in 28 committee meetings that require significant time and resources.

“My No. 1 responsibility is to make sure our students are educated at the highest levels in a safe and secure environment.” she said. “But I cannot and will not ask my entire academic staff, principals of campuses, teachers, librarians and anybody else that has to serve on one of these committees out of instructional time to hear book challenges.”

Some Residents are Disappointed

Nathalie Herpin, a resident of Spring Branch and co-founder/director of the nonpartisan PAC Families 4 Every Child, expressed disappointment with the board’s decision. Herpin believes that the district should prioritize other issues such as staff retention and funding, rather than book vetting.

“I’m disappointed that the votes went 4-3,” she said. “I think some of the trustees made some incredible points about overreach in governments and the risks associated with setting a precedent like this. I think there was a far superior way to handle that.” 

Trustees voting against the measure pointed to the potential overreach of power when duties not typically handled by the school board are allocated to the governing body. 

“I start to get uncomfortable when I think about elected bodies kind of overreaching, and that is my concern,” Trustee Josef Klam told the superintendent before the vote. 

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