In a contentious meeting of the Keller Independent School District (KISD) Board of Trustees on Monday, trustees voted to change the criteria by which library materials are screened.
The proposed changes sought to add the concept of “gender fluidity” to the list of literary criteria requiring review and potential removal from school libraries and instructional materials.
Existing criteria included certain kinds of “sexually explicit content” and “illustrations or descriptions of nude intimate body parts.”
The vote was 4-2 in favor of the new criteria, with one member abstaining.
President Charles Randklev said he trusted the school librarians but explained how one parent brought to his attention a book he considered “sexually spicy.”
“Here I am finding books that are unfortunately part of the LGBT community,” said Randklev, who ended up voting to adopt the more stringent review criteria. “When it comes to protecting our children from things we don’t want them to see, from things that they’re not ready to see, I’ll defend them.”
Trustee Ruthie Keyes, who voted against the measure, argued that certain non-contested classics could fall under the review process under the new criteria.
“They teach that Deborah Sampson dressed like a man so she could go into battle,” Keyes said. “And she was a hero. Are we going to take that out because we can’t talk about it anymore?”
Deborah also claimed that Mulan, a Chinese folk story famously adapted into a Disney animation, was another example.
The public comment period before the vote had as many as 75 speakers and lasted more than three hours.
The room, filled with about 100 people, seemed evenly split on the issue, with half supporting the board’s move and half opposing it.
During the public comment segment of the meeting, signs were held up by opponents of the proposal that read “Stop Lying” and “Ban Bigots, Keep Book.”
The phrases “Christian Nationalism” and “indoctrination” were thrown around multiple times by different speakers. Others invoked God and the U.S. Constitution to support their arguments.
The concerns of those supporting the new criteria mainly centered around protecting children, while the opposition was concerned that students identifying as transgender could become marginalized and stigmatized.
Kathy May held up a book called “Bodies are Cool” and explained how she felt the book indoctrinated children, showing pictures of kids who had transitioned in the book.
“This is all about gender theory,” she said. “Like [Critical Race Theory], it has gone mainstream and we know that there are kids suffering through this right now.”
Jason Terk, a pediatrician in Keller, opposed screening books containing LGBTQ+ content, claiming that the lack of access to those books could negatively affect students’ mental health.
“Trans kids are two to four times more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression,” he said. “Emotionally, healthy trans kids are no different than their emotionally healthy, cisgender peers, in that they feel the need to be accepted and loved by the institutions and the people in their life effectively.”
Garrett Weis thanked the board members and spoke in support of the proposal.
“It’s difficult to stand in the arena and take arrows and not fire back,” he said. He called those opposed to the board’s proposed book policy a “fringe group” that “only has one recourse, which is to throw insults.”
Piper Rogan said that the board was “pushing through controversial policies that were not based on best practices” and warned that it was inviting lawsuits.
Gretchen Veling echoed those concerns, telling WFAA, “Our biggest fear is that the teachers are going to jump ship, the counselors are going to jump ship, principals are going to jump ship and then where does that leave our kids.”
Blanca Hernandez, who said she was a former teacher, spoke in favor of the amendment. “Gender should not be the only reason we are doing this,” she said.
Joel Starnes told The Dallas Express outside the board meeting that he thought the discourse was important.
“Having a public speaking forum like this is what citizens should take advantage of, and every citizen should,” he said. “Our culture is divisive. Either conserving time-tested truths or wanting to fundamentally change this country. And the divide is only going to get bigger.”
Also discussed that night was the possible implementation of the Guardian Program, which would authorize certain school employees to carry firearms, however, no action was taken by the board on that item.