No love is lost between concerned citizens and Lovejoy ISD, as criticism of policy scrutiny regarding challenging books and dismissive treatment of parents who attempt to hold the district accountable have surfaced.

Shannon Ayres, the education division lead for the Collin County branch of Citizens Defending Freedom (CDF), continues to play a crucial role in addressing the concerns raised by parents and other concerned citizens about Lovejoy ISD. She recently spoke to The Dallas Express about what she has seen.

Ayres explained that the “superintendent works FOR the board, not the other way around.” She noted that the school board should represent those it is called to serve rather than appear to collude with the district.

“The district is supposed to ‘partner’ with parents per Texas Education Code Chapter 26.001, but this district is actively working against parents who have legitimate concerns,” Ayers expressed, raising a red flag about the district’s actions.

The trouble apparently started soon after HB 900 went into effect when a Lovejoy ISD parent, Laura Giles, expressed concern over a list of potentially inappropriate books she wanted the district to review.

DX was provided with an email thread that showed the following correspondence between the parent and Rodricka Taylor, the coordinator for the superintendent and board services at Lovejoy ISD.

On May 1, the parent sent a request for information to Lovejoy ISD asking for an updated list of books that have gone through the reconsideration process, including books waiting to be reviewed, the committee results for each book from 2023 to the present, and, if applicable, the date they were removed. The parent also requested an updated list of books removed from the classrooms and physical and digital libraries, including those removed from the library outside the reconsideration process.

On May 10, the parent received an email from Taylor stating that the fee to comply with the request would be $414.

Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) found out about the fee and decided to pay it himself the following day. He commented on Facebook about the matter and posted the parent and district emails as evidence.

“Recently, Lovejoy ISD told a resident it would cost $414 to gather lists of books in the district. The resident reached out for help and I agreed to pay the ridiculous $414 FOIA fee…,” posted Patterson.

What Patterson did not know was that Taylor, after finding out that the representative requested that he hand the payment in person to Superintendent Katie Kordel, emailed the parent at 8 a.m. on May 17, stating that the fee had now been raised to $2,899.90.

“REMARKABLY, Lovejoy ISD then raised their fee to nearly $3,000 the morning we arrived. Keep in mind, this is information many area districts — including my own — make public for everyone to see. Lovejoy ISD clearly doesn’t want parents or taxpayers snooping around the school to see what they’re exposing to kids in the district,” wrote Patterson.

With the district in the public spotlight and having time to determine how best to mitigate the damage, school officials seemingly had a change of heart. They provided the list of books that had been removed outside of the reconsideration process from 2023 to the present without collecting the total cost estimate of $2,899.80 to comply with the request.

On May 23, Patterson posted, “VICTORY! Lovejoy ISD was able to pull together the information they thought would take weeks seemingly overnight to fulfill their responsibility to transparency. It’s now publicly available for parents and taxpayers who are working to remove sexually explicit content from the district — without having to pay the near-$3,000 fee. This is a big win!”

Unfortunately, there was more to the seemingly dismissive mishandling of parents in Lovejoy ISD.

The parent also requested the list of members of the 2024 reconsideration committee via a public information request on May 10. She received a response that claimed “the district found no responsive documents regarding your request. … This satisfies your request, and your request is now closed,” per an email from Taylor shown to DX.

Oddly enough, DX was shown this list of each member of the reconsideration committee by name and position, which the district provided to the parent’s attorney, Janelle Davis, during a Level 3 grievance hearing on June 19.

The Level 3 grievance revolved around four books that went through the district’s expedited interim review policy. The books in question were Freedom Writers Diaries by The Freedom Writers and Erin Gruwell, Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi, The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, and Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas.

The expedited interim review policy states that “an appropriate administrator and at least one District librarian shall review the specific content alleged to be obscene, constitute harmful material, or be pervasively vulgar and make a determination regarding the allegation. If the content is found to constitute obscenity, harmful material, or vulgar, in part or in whole, then the library material shall be immediately removed pending further review by the full reconsideration committee.”

With regard to the books in question, the “appropriate administrator and at least one District librarian” concluded that the books were, in fact, vulgar.

Yet, the district’s process allowed the reconsideration committee to reportedly disregard the parent’s concerns and the recommended outcome of its own expedited interim review. The committee emailed Lovejoy ISD’s parents to explain the result of the grievance hearing. DX was provided with the email.

“At the grievance hearing this morning, the Board made the determination that administration followed District policy, and the substantial weight of the evidence supported the committee’s reasonable determinations and outcomes. Therefore, the Board denied the Level 3 appeals regarding these books… To be clear, this is not an endorsement of any ideas expressed in the book, but rather a determination that board policy was followed. Our Board continues to provide deference to parents to choose what is right for their individual children without allowing the administration or another parent to make that choice on their behalf,” the district email read.

Ayers explained that the issue is more than the books in question, claiming that the district checks the boxes so it remains above legal reproach but does not protect the children. The district appears to be promoting its personal agenda under the guise of policy, she argued.

She noted that the “reconsideration committee, IN EVERY CASE so far, have refused to remove the books.”

The question stands: Why accept parent complaints about pervasively vulgar books and go so far as to have an expedited interim review policy agrees some books are indeed indecent, only to have the district admittedly choose to allow the parents to control what children read within the taxpayer-funded school district? The district’s processes appear to be more of a “see, we’re following the rules at face value” rather than actually considering why the rules were put in place — to protect the children.

In May and June, DX sent two emails to the administrative staff at Lovejoy ISD requesting comment and left a voicemail for Taylor but did not receive a response.

CDF sent DX a July 3 press release with additional details as it relates to this story.