Local ISD To Vote on New Library Book Policy

Library books on a shelf | Image by Mikael Damkier, Shutterstock

Members of the public turned out to a meeting of Mansfield ISD’s Board of Trustees on Tuesday to weigh in on a proposal that would restrict student access to books that discuss or depict certain themes, including substance use, bullying, and “gender fluidity.”

The policy, similar to one adopted in Keller ISD, would restrict library materials containing 14 specified themes, giving board members the final say over their approval. It would also allow adults in the district to challenge materials they consider inappropriate, per reporting from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Many individuals who spoke during the nearly two-hour public comment portion of the meeting voiced opposition to the measure, particularly concerning the listed “gender fluidity” theme.

“It is blatant that you are promoting censorship and discrimination against the LGBT+ community … Two of my three kids are part of this LGBT+ community, and I love them dearly and will fight for their right to exist and have the same opportunities as all of their peers,” said district parent Cynthia Daniels.

“The message you are sending them is that they are not wanted in this district. Shame on you,” she concluded.

Later in the meeting, a Mansfield ISD senior who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community addressed the trustees.

“I’d like to ask if any of the people before me have ever been physically or emotionally harmed in any way by the addition of a queer or trans character in a novel,” challenged Campbell Grove.

“As a queer individual, I don’t quite understand what is so grotesque or disturbing about the way that I feel love. I don’t understand how something that I possess could be such a riveting and controversial debate, but yet the conversation persists,” Grove said.

While outnumbered among public speakers, some Mansfield ISD residents voiced their support for the measure.

“I’ve heard many times that we should respect librarians. ‘They have master’s degrees.’ Well, I have a parenting degree … Just because you are educated does not mean that you share the same values as me and my family,” said Myra Miller Castles.

“Librarians should respect parents who have different values than them,” Castles said.

A community member took to the podium after Castles to support the trustees and encourage them to adopt the policy.

“I want to thank you for standing strong, for standing up for what is right, for standing up for protecting our children,” said Julie Short.

“We do it out in the public realm. We protect them from sexually-explicit material — the magazines they’re not allowed to read are put away and they don’t get to buy those, the movies they shouldn’t be watching they can’t get into without an adult. Thank you for protecting them at school where we think it’s safe to send them,” Short added.

The board voted 5-1 to move forward with the policy, according to the Star-Telegram, with Trustee Warren Davis voting no and Trustee Desiree Thomas absent. They must vote again to adopt the policy, but the date for that vote has not been established.

Board members clarified that the policy proposal was just getting a first reading at Tuesday’s meeting and that the policy’s language is not yet set in stone. However, one trustee claimed that the policy’s purpose was being misconstrued.

“We’re talking about minor children that we are entrusted to protect, and so I think we’re losing sight of that because we don’t agree on the content of a book. I don’t care about the content of the book. I care about who has access to it while they’re sitting in schools that we’re all responsible for,” said Trustee Keziah Valdes Farrar.

Mansfield ISD is not the only North Texas school district to court controversy over the books it keeps on school library shelves.

As previously reported by The Dallas Express, some community members in Dallas ISD have repeatedly voiced concerns that the district gives students access to books they believe are obscene or sexually explicit, only to be largely ignored by the district’s school board members.

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