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Lack of Transparency in Keller ISD, Sexually Explicit Books

Opinion

Transparency | Image by SNeG17 / Shutterstock

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The taxpayers in Keller ISD need Attorney General Ken Paxton’s help. The district is working very hard to keep parents out of the book discussion and selection process in Keller ISD. The district’s in-house attorney claims everything surrounding sexually explicit books in schools is confidential despite the board having no specific policy to support that claim.

When pornography was discovered in our schools, a parent submitted an open records request for email communications between board members since the Keller ISD board of trustees rarely discusses controversial topics in board meetings. However, the district stonewalled the request stating those conversations were confidential. They asked the attorney general’s office to agree to allowing the district to keep those communications confidential even though there is no such allowance in the code.

To address the discovery of sexually explicit books in Keller ISD, the in-house attorney established a “book challenge committee” who determines the fate of challenged books. When the book committee unanimously approved a sexually explicit book to remain in classrooms and libraries, a parent submitted an open records request to discover who sat on the committee. The district stonewalled claiming confidential information. They argue the first amendment rights of the committee members need to be protected. However, if these committee members are principled in their opinion, they should have no reason to hide their opinion from the public. On the other hand, if expressing their opinion is too weighty, then they also have the right to remain silent. But parents are intentionally excluded from the conversation.

To further protect themselves from public scrutiny, the district required all book challenge committee members to sign a non-disclosure agreement in order to participate on the committee. When a parent submitted an open records request for the administrative procedure (and/or administrative policy) this requirement comes from, the district again stonewalled the parent stating the policy was still in “draft form” and had not yet been approved by the board; therefore, making it confidential information. How can the district follow a policy not yet adopted by the board, but also not available for the public to view unlike other draft policies?

A parent submitted an open records request to learn how committee members were recruited and selected to serve on the book challenge committee. The request did not ask for names. It simply asked for emails, posters, flyers, etc. encouraging or demanding employee participation. The district stonewalled. Why? Because—you guessed it—it is confidential.

Parents wanted to know what procedures the library task force follows to determine the appropriateness of books. An open records request asked for the members of this task force and for a copy of the library manual. The district stonewalled stating the manual remained in draft form; thus, it was confidential information. They also refused to disclose who served on the library task force because it also was confidential.

The district claims all of their procedures, policies and decisions surrounding sexually explicit books are confidential and should be protected from public view. They do not believe the public has the right know blatantly disregarding any checks and balances.

Attorney General Paxton is our only hope to expose this lack of transparency in Keller ISD so parents can hold the school district accountable for their decisions.

Dr. Kris Kittle, Ph.D. is an author, educator, parent and taxpayer. She resides in North Fort Worth. 

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DaLana Barsanti
DaLana Barsanti
8 months ago

No more hiding… It’s time for b KISD to come clean!

Fran Rhodes
Fran Rhodes
7 months ago

Thank you, Dr. Kittle for following and reporting on this issue. Reminder to readers… there’s a school board election coming soon. Choose wisely.