AUSTIN, Texas — Books on race and sexuality are disappearing from Texas schools as Governor Greg Abbott introduces a bill that would call for the prosecution of anyone deemed to be supplying a minor with inappropriate material.
This comes after the governor tapped the Texas Education Agency to investigate the availability of pornographic books in schools. Advocates against this pushed back at a 'March for Education' rally outside the Texas State Capitol on Saturday by calling the move censorship.
Gov. Abbott has been outspoken about removing inappropriate books from school libraries. He introduced the "Parental Bill of Rights" earlier this year at a campaign event in Lewisville, Texas which would allow parents access to course materials.
Members of the LGBTQ+ community and teachers are advocating for a more inclusive education.
“My thought is that a lot of the heart in this book banning is people being afraid to let their kids think for themselves," said Conan Henry who attended Saturday's protest.
Several people pushed back against banning books in school libraries. Kerri Henry said banning books goes against the historically marginalized groups lived through like during slavery.
“I feel like young students should be able to have a true representation of history and know the real truth," Henry said.
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The real truth she said is letting students learn about gender, sexuality, and race. At the 'March for Education' advocates protested bills they say will stifle education.
“Obviously, you know, we can’t protest at every single school board in Texas that’s enacting these policies, but we can make a big show at the Capitol to show our support for students' rights to an inclusive education and a full education," said Maya Mackey with Voters of Tomorrow Texas.
At a campaign event in Jan., Gov. Abbott said the “Parental Bill of Rights” would call for potential prosecution of anyone supplying a minor with inappropriate learning materials. Under the bill, educators that provide access to pornographic materials could lose their educational credentials and be placed on the do not hire list. Educators said they will continue to provide an inclusive education for all students.
“If you don’t want to read a book, don’t read it but don’t control someone else that wants to read it," President of Education Austin Ken Zarifis said.
Abbott said the bill will amend the Texas Constitution which would make it clear that parents are the primary decision-makers involving their children. The bill says, "Parental decisions cannot be overridden without the due process of law." It would also allow expanding access to parents' rights to access course curriculum and all material that is available in any education setting for their student, so parents know what is being taught.
“As a person of the LGBT community, I feel it’s important to know about the history of other and older people of the LGBT community. I feel as books that represent people of the community are being banned," said Aaron Hahn who attended Saturday's protest.
The "Parental Bill of Rights" also aims to protect students and "require that schools are not collecting unnecessary personal data about students." The bill would also give parents the option to decide if their child should repeat a course or grade level instead of leaving that decision up to the school district.
“Banning books is a crisis and we’ve got to stop it. So, we’re here to stand up for truth being taught and to stop any type of banning of books in our schools,” Zarifis said.
Teachers spoke up to make sure the youth have a voice by saying they will not stand for not being able to teach accurate history.
“I have a lot of hope for the future of our state and our nation because of the young people that are becoming activists in their community and speaking out on issues like this," Austin ISD teacher Traci Dunlap said. “Educators are not going to be muzzled. We’re going to continue to teach our students the truth."