Bookshelves in school libraries and classrooms are facing heightened scrutiny after a member of the Texas House, Rep. Matt Krause, asked a number of districts to identify certain types of books on their campuses primarily related to race and sexuality issues. The political controversy has many Texas teachers questioning what books they can and can’t make available to students.
The bottom line is that nothing in state law has changed regarding books, despite what some lawmakers have suggested. Senate Bill 3, which goes into effect Dec. 2 and replaces House Bill 3979, focused on classroom discussions around a “widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs” and is silent about books. The representative’s letter also directs districts to identify books that “might make students students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex,” referencing language that was in HB 3979 but was subsequently struck by SB 3.
SB 3 also added a key word — inculcation — that should protect a teacher if they simply made content available. The presence of a book in the library or classroom library is not inculcation, which involves teaching something persistently and repeatedly to implant as an idea or theory.
That said, even if the law hasn’t changed, the political landscape certainly has, so teachers need to make sure they follow all local policies for inclusion of books in classroom libraries and keep documentation showing they have approval where it is needed.
Members with questions should call TCTA's legal department at 888-879-8282 to speak with a staff attorney.