Texans Want Content Ratings on School Books


Student reaches for a book on library shelf | Image by UfaBizPhoto/Shutterstock

A new online poll conducted by the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs sheds some light on where Texans stand on a hot-button education issue.

Researchers found that 71% of respondents were in favor of requiring book publishers to develop a content rating system to apply to any materials they sell to Texas public schools.

This majority, when broken down by political affiliation, consisted of 90% of Republicans, 77% of Independents, and 54% of Democrats polled, signifying broad bipartisan support for such legislation.

Broken down by sex, the majority comprised 73% of male and 69% of female respondents.

Additionally, 79% of Texans with a child under the age of 18 who took the survey support the measure.

The poll was conducted between January 9 and January 19, 2023, receiving answers from 1,200 adults, many of whom had the option to take the survey in Spanish.

Two state lawmakers have recently filed legislation that, if enacted, would impose such a requirement on publishers, according to The Dallas Morning News.

State Reps. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) and Tom Oliverson (R-Cypress) both submitted bills that would prohibit certain books deemed inappropriate for students and require publishers to affix age-appropriate content ratings to books sold to any Texas public school.

While seemingly very popular with voters, the measures could be challenged in federal court, at least according to Aaron Terr, the director of public advocacy for the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. He told The Dallas Express:

“The government would quickly run into First Amendment problems if it required publishers to place content ratings on books they sell to public schools. Media ratings systems, like the MPAA for movies or the ESRB for video games, are generally voluntary and industry-run.”

“They cannot constitutionally be co-opted by the government and turned into speech regulations. It’s already common for publishers to categorize books based on age group, and there are organizations that rate the suitability of books and other media for children, so a government mandate would be both unconstitutional and unnecessary.”

Still, with or without state legislation, the issue is already animating voters in North Texas, where recent school board elections empowered trustees at Frisco ISD, Keller ISD, and Grapevine-Colleyville ISD to implement new screening procedures for library materials.

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1 month ago

That’s fine, but a RESPONSIBLE adult should read EVERY new book to ensure the rating is ACCURATE!

1 month ago

While it is famous for a completely different reason, this is why there was a Texas School Book Depository, to create a choke point to regulate the books Texas schools had to buy from. It was state law that schools had to buy from a state approved “depository” and the depository could only stock books approved by the state. The law was changed in the late 90’s and schools could buy anything.

Last edited 1 month ago by Wfanning
Anna W.
Anna W.
1 month ago

State Reps from Cypress and Frisco can’t tell all the School District’s what to read.

These nuts need too read the Magazine that Texas Monthly published years ago. “100 years of Texas History.” I guess they are going in all of our homes and libraries and burn this issue.

Communist thinker’s, what BullBlank. Another State that will probably be boycotted.

1 month ago

The problem with the publisher’s categorizing system is the categorizing system itself. The “Young Adult” category includes ages 12-30! That is not a fair assessment of content. Some of the books I’ve seen being challenged are way too matures for a 12yr old or even 16 yr old. The publishers have created the system this way purposely in order to sell more books.
As far as the 1st amendment argument, minors do NOT have the same 1st amendment rights as adults. They are a protected class (see Texas Penal Code 43.24) and there are many case law decisions that rule in favor of protecting minors from obscene content.
Rating these books is common sense especially with the present smut I have seen in school libraries. This bill isn’t for coming to your private residence and removing books from your personal collection. Public schools are taxpayer funded government institutions and should hold to legally defined community standards. I hope this bill is passed and enforced.

Catherine Wood, PhD, Clinical Psychologist
Catherine Wood, PhD, Clinical Psychologist
1 month ago

A long time ago, parents of students made up every textbook committee. That system worked very well to make sure literature was appropriate for their children. Over time, education “experts” seeking to take this control from parents put this function in the hands of those who would “expand the student’s exposure to new ideas,” in an effort to influence values. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world, “ said Nelson Mandela, and this power is well understood by those with social agendas.