Earlier this year, Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX) signed into law the Restricting Explicit and Adult-Designated Educational Resources (READER) Act, a bill requiring those who sell books to rate them on how appropriate they are for young readers.
Now, the State Board of Education (SBOE) has voted 13-1 that school librarians must recognize that "parents are the primary decision makers when it comes to their kids' access to library materials."
Aicha Davis, a Democrat from Dallas, cast the only vote against approval of the state's first-ever mandatory school library collection development standards.
The guidelines apply to all materials in all Texas public school libraries, classroom libraries, and online catalogs, and it will be up to parents to verify that their local school officials are complying with the law.
Mary Elizabeth Castle of Texas Values says many parents and citizens came together in the last legislative session to ask for rules and laws on keeping pornographic materials out of school libraries, but there was, and is, dissent.
"There was almost immediate backlash after HB 900 was passed," she recalls. "Of course the typical adversaries, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), filed a lawsuit against HB 900. That stopped the law only temporarily."
A court ruled quickly to put in place.
"As for the State Board of Education protecting parental rights and having these standards, they were not able to stop that," Castle continues. "For the first time, the State Board of Education has determined a set of guidelines for librarians to use in public school libraries to keep pornographic books off of bookshelves in front of children -- a problem that has been pretty pervasive in the last couple of years."
The new guidance, which calls on schools to recognize "that obscene content is not protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution," also contains language to ensure that books are restricted from school libraries based on their content, not "solely on the ideas contained in the material or the personal background of the author of the material or characters."
Castle calls this a great step forward.