Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers informed about Texas’ most essential news.
In the latest salvo in Texas Republicans’ fight against what they describe as indoctrination and lewdness in schools, several Republican state officials are calling on Texas school district officials to commit not to buy books from vendors who have supplied schools with what lawmakers consider to be pornography.
State Representative Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, sent a letter Wednesday to school districts asking school officials to sign the pledge. In his letter, Patterson said children across Texas have been exposed to materials such as “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” a graphic novel that has become a lightning rod both nationwide and in Texas among some parents and Republican officials.
The book, by Maia Kobabe, describes the author’s experiences growing up and struggling to identify as gay, bisexual or asexual. It contains a few pages of explicit illustrations depicting oral sex, which have outraged some parents and heads of state.
The non-binary author, who uses the pronouns e/em/eir, told the Texas Tribune last year that students need “good, accurate, safe information on these topics” instead of “doing crazy research in line” and potentially come across incorrect information.
But some Republicans, including Gov. Greg Abbott, called the book “pornographic.” Patterson repeated this description in his letter.
“Local districts and the Legislative Assembly will work diligently on policies to prevent such books from being allowed on campus in the future,” Patterson wrote. “However, we also recognize that school districts have a lot [of] market power when buying books and that if we unite against explicit materials for children, book sellers will be forced to adapt.
The letter was signed by 26 additional Republican lawmakers, including state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, who initially compiled a list of some 850 books on race and sexuality that he sent to school districts to request information on the number available. on their campuses.
“Respectfully, I ask you to make this pledge on behalf of every Texan child in public schools who does not deserve to be exposed to obscene material,” Patterson said.
Abbott cited “Gender Queer” when he ordered the Texas Education Agency to investigate criminal activity related to “the availability of pornography” in November and also cited the book when he led the TEA, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and the State Board of Education to develop standards to block books with “overtly sexual” content in schools.
Shannon Holmes, executive director of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, said in a statement that pornography has a legal definition and anything a person finds in poor taste does not meet that definition.
“RUTF urges school districts to recognize the power of the elected school board to work with parents and educators to find the right balance for their local communities and avoid getting caught up in these kinds of politically motivated commitments,” Holmes said in a statement.