On Nov. 14, the Keller Independent School District board in Keller, Texas, voted 4-2 to adopt a policy banning books in all public school libraries — including high school libraries — that have any reference to “gender fluidity.” Under the district’s new policy, books that merely discuss gender fluidity are banned, while books that depict “passionate” kissing, nudity, or sex scenes remain available.
This makes no sense.
As one dissenting member pointed out, the school district — which earlier this year bumbled its way into pulling the Bible and Anne Frank’s diary from library shelves — has already adopted limits on books with sexual content. Another board member noted that the new policy could reach content involving simply gender non-conforming behavior, including the Disney movie ‘Mulan’ and the story of Revolutionary War hero Deborah Samson. The board adopted the policy despite these concerns in order to remove certain “political” books.
Keller ISD’s new restrictions violate the First Amendment. The new policy bans books based not on their educational value or age-level-appropriateness but on objection to viewpoints and ideas themselves. The school board president confirmed this himself at the meeting, saying, “we’re talking about an ideology, a perspective.” The board president also said the policy was necessary to avoid discussion of “political issues.” But the district’s libraries still stock plenty of political books, including Donald Trump’s “Great Again: How to Fix Our Crippled America,” Scott Adams’ “Win Bigly,” and Hillary Clinton’s “Living History.”
Here’s the bottom line: A public school board has removed all discussion of a disfavored social and political topic out of its school libraries because its leaders and community members object to particular ideas and viewpoints. These new restrictions teach students precisely the wrong lesson about free speech and the First Amendment. FIRE has issued a public records request for the board members’ communications.
“If we want the next generation to value freedom of expression, we have to honor it in our daily practice and demonstrate that views, ideas, theories, and topics that some may find objectionable should be discussed, contested, or ignored — not censored,” said FIRE attorney Adam Steinbaugh. “If the only time we celebrate the First Amendment is when it protects the speech we like, students will learn the First Amendment is useless and can be ignored at will.”
See FIRE’s fact sheet with analysis of the new policy here.