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Governor Abbott Pushes TEA to Eliminate Explicit Material in Schools

Education, Featured

Texas Governor Greg Abbot speaking. | Image from Reuters

On Monday, November 8, Governor Greg Abbott wrote a letter about last week’s appeal for the Texas Association of School Boards to develop standards for materials that enter into schools.

The Association said that they have “no authority to regulate school books or lessons,” and pointed Abbott in the direction of contacting the State Board of Education and the Texas Education Agency (TEA), The Dallas Morning News stated.    

In Abbott’s letter, it stated, “Instead of addressing the concerns of parents and shielding Texas children from pornography in public schools, the Texas Association of School Boards has attempted to wash its hands clean of the issue by abdicating any and all responsibility in the matter,” and added, “Given this negligence, the State of Texas now calls on you to do what the Texas Association of School Boards refuses to do.”    

The Texas Education Agency was ordered by Abbott to conduct a criminal investigation about public schools holding materials that are deemed as “pornographic,” according to Fox 4.   

Fox 4 mentioned that the order is for the “Texas Education Agency to investigate any criminal activity in our public schools involving the availability of pornography.” Abbott also wants the TEA to establish what they believe the standards for obscene content should be.     

Education Commissioner Mike Morath stated, “The Texas Education Agency takes seriously Governor Abbott’s call for action on this matter of great importance to families of Texas public school students.”    

Chair of the State Board of Education, Keven Ellis, said that the board that he supervises would work together with the Library Commission and the Texas Education Agency to develop standards for materials that enter the schools.     

According to The Dallas Morning News, the Library Commission is “committed to the safety and educational needs” for the students in Texas, and they agree to work together with Governor Abbott, the Texas Education Agency, and the State Board of Education.     

Ellis further stated, “Our public school families throughout Texas should have the reassurance that their children are not at risk of being confronted with pornographic and obscene material when they are in school.”    

Recently, Keller ISD removed a book titled “Gender Queer” from the library of a high school because “the book on gender identity contains sexual descriptions and illustrations,” after parents of the students showed concerns about the sexual images within the pages.     

A spokesperson for Keller ISD told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “Illustrations of this sort should never be available in the school environment,” and continued with, “Ensuring our curricular materials are appropriate for students is a priority for Keller ISD. We are changing the process we use to review and approve books and related materials to prevent future incidents.”  

Organizations that represent teachers are saying, “It’s playing politics with our children’s education,” according to Fox 4. These organizations have also said, “It’s best to let educators at the district level determine what’s appropriate.”    

The President of the largest educator organization for Dallas ISD employees, Alliance AFT, is Rena Honea.

She said, “I wish that they would let the professionals do their jobs, let the school districts, the parents do their jobs, working in collaboration together,” and added, “When they go on witch hunts like this, they really create a potential to investigate or even prosecute a teacher or a librarian over something that may not be what most people would find objectionable or inappropriate at all.”    

Monty Exter is a part of the Association Of Texas Professional Educators. Exter stated, “It’s our position that parents absolutely have a right to know what’s going on and with their children’s education,” Fox 4 mentions.   

Exter also stated, “Investigations like this will only hurt teachers and students,” and revealed that there are already processes in place to review materials that enter the schools.

“This is fear-mongering and this is ginning up a hysteria and anger for no other purpose than electioneering,” said Exter. He continued saying, “And really, it is playing politics with one of our community’s bedrock institutions, our public schools.”    

This is a developing story.