Banned Books in Texas District


Graphic by Amelia Coleman.

Jolie Grogan, Staffer

All around the country book banning has become a topic of controversy, especially in Texas, according to American Progress. 713 books have been banned across the state and that the upsurge in book banning has caused increased advocating for legislation regarding school curriculum and what should and should not be allowed to be read in school, according to American progress.

Recently, there has been a big push from parents and government officials to ban books like The Bible and The Diary of Anne Frank graphic novel in Keller ISD, according to the Texas Tribune. LASA Librarian Elizabeth Switek is an advocate against the banning of books. Switek said that the push has been from the Texas governments’ support for this censorship, but that the process to ban a book is very intricate and often complicated. 

“We usually see maybe a few 100 book challenges over the course of a year nationwide,” Switek said. “Last year, there were hundreds and hundreds, several thousand books were challenged. Some were banned.”

 Switek said a book being challenged is common, but doesn’t mean that the book will actually be banned from schools. Anyone can challenge a book for any reason, but that doesn’t mean that AISD can or will ban the book.

“We are not allowed to pull books based on somebody’s opinion of the content of the book,” Switek said. “That content, even if it’s offensive to you, may not be offensive to somebody else.” 

Switek also said a book being banned from a library is a much bigger deal than a book being banned from a teacher’s classroom. She said banning books from libraries interferes with people’s first amendment rights.

“Since the library serves everyone, it’s a little harder to have a book challenge or actually banned,” Switek said. “Whereas, if it’s something that’s in a class that a classroom library has, or they’re going to put it on a reading list that everybody has to use, it seems to be a little easier.” 

Switek said she feels responsible for students’ reading career as the main part of her job is to encourage students to be lifelong readers. She said she also does her best to gather and learn information about reading to empower students in their education. 

“The idea is that if, if you as a kid, your parents does not want you to read it, that’s conversation you have at the dinner table, conversation you have in the car, and your parent can decide what is right for you, but they can’t decide what’s right for that kid over there,” Switek said.

In Williamson County, COVID-19 relief money, also known as cares money, was used as a bargaining tool to ban books from schools. As a way to cut budgets, the government came up with rules to disqualify schools from receiving relief money if they did not ban certain books.

“They refused to give any of the of that cares money to those school districts because they said they had inappropriate and pornographic material in their libraries,” Switek said.

Sophomore student council president Cecilia Gay is actively involved with events concerning the school district and students rights to have a say in educational desicions. Gay said she believes only books that actively spread misinformation should be banned.

“They’re a part of our history,” Gay said, “and I think it’s important for people to know about all types of backgrounds, religions, different sexualities, etc.”

Anne Frank’s Diary had been a controversial book for years, according to Switek. The book was challenged many times, and finally got banned by Keller ISD. 

“The Anne Frank diary has been challenged and was banned from one year’s display in the 80s,” Switek said. 

Anne Frank’s Diary was edited by her father to leave out certain, more private information, but the author of the graphic novel based it off of the unedited diary. An argument for the recent banning of the book was that it was “depressing”. 

“It’s going to be depressing, yes,” Switek said, “and again, if they didn’t want their child to read it, fine, but they made the decision for the entire school district.” 

The Bible was also banned in Keller ISD. Switek said the banning of the Bible seemed like revenge because of the removal of the graphic novel of Anne Frank’s diary, which covers the Holocaust. The challengers to the Bible said it contained topics that fell under the category of being inappropriate for young children.

“The Bible, that’s kind of a tit for tat, so you’re gonna say that I can’t have this either,” Switek said.

In Texas if someone donates something to a school under God, the school is required to display that. However, Switek says this isn’t well received with non-Christian religions.

“There’s a man who was Muslim, who tried to donate one that was written in Arabic, and then one that had like a rainbow flag heart underneath it,” Switek said. “And they’ve said, no, no, we don’t want it.”

In Florida there has been a big movement about restricting books about LGBTQ, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay movement”. Books with any mention of LGBTQ+ people are being pulled off the shelves. 

“And so you can’t have books that have a trans character, you can’t have books where Heather has two mommies,” Switek said. “So people have been pushing back on that, if we can’t talk about families, and if we can’t talk about gender, then we can’t talk about husbands and wives.”

Senior Samantha Mason said banning books is almost always unacceptable. Mason said the books that should be banned are ones that are universally acknowledged as not helpful to educating children.

“It’s a really bad thing,” Mason said. “It’s not productive to the educational system. A children’s book that teaches kids to go shoot up schools, teaches violence, and unwarranted behaviors like that [should be banned], where it’s not productive and efficient.”

If students disagree with the banning of books, Switek said there are opportunities for students to take action to get books on the challenged list, or write to government officials concerning books on the banned list. LASA also held events in the library for Banned Books during the week of Oct. 1-7.