The Leander Independent School District will remove 11 books from the high school curriculum after a year-long review of titles parents deem inappropriate.
This is the latest step in the district’s plan to address a debate on student reading materials that began last fall. Parents complained about some books available in English classes, arguing that they contained inappropriate content and were not stimulating enough for high school students. The district has responded by removing some of the books until they can undergo a review process – an action that has sparked a reaction from groups like PEN America who are calling LISD for censorship.
The 11 books, which include V for Vendetta and The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel, were not compulsory readings, but were part of student “reading clubs”. In English lessons, teachers Have students choose a book from a list of about 15 books to read and discuss in groups. Students are not required to read a particular book, and they can also request to choose a book that is not on the lists provided.
At school board meetings and on social media last year, parents argued that the books should not be used in school because they contained sexual content, references to sexual assault, bad language and graphic images.
In the aftermath, the district had the books reviewed by a group of staff, parents and community members called the Community Program Advisory Committee.
The CCAC recommended that some books be taken down for reasons such as sexual content, graphic violence and foul language.
This fall, the CCAC and those in charge of the program have completed a final exam. They released their findings this week, naming the books that will be permanently withdrawn from book clubs and class libraries. They are:
- Courageous face: a memory by Shaun David Hutchinson
- The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel by Margaret Atwood and Renée Nault
- In the dream house: a memory by Carmen Maria Machado
- none of the above by IW Gregorio
- Girls out of nowhere by Amy Lynn Reed
- Out of the darkness by Ashley Hope Perez
- Red to the bone by Jacqueline Woodson
- “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, licensed graphic adaptation by Myles Hyman
- Yell by Laurie Halse Anderson
- V for Vendetta by Alan Moore
- Y: The last man, volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan
Some books that were withdrawn last school year and put into review have been returned to the classroom and will be made available to students for future book clubs. These include:
- american street by Ibi Zoboi
- The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
- Kiss number 8 by Colleen AF Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw
- Laura Dean keeps breaking up with me by Mariko Tamaki
- Ordinary risks: a brief by Nikki Grimes
Other books that the district heard about but were never deleted – Know my name: a memory, Speak: The Graphic Novel, and What we saw – will remain in use.
PEN America, a nonprofit that promotes literature and free speech, has repeatedly asked LISD to allow these books to be used in school. The organization said in a statement on Thursday that he “denounces” the decision of LISD to withdraw these 11 books “as an unjustified exercise of censorship”.
Jonathan Friedman, director of free speech and education at PEN America, said the withdrawal of the books was “a deep disappointment.”
“The whole process has been unusual, opaque, and disturbing – more to appease sensitive parents than to serve student learners,” Friedman said. “It cannot be denied that the chopping books all deal with LGBTQ + issues, sex and racism and that they were singled out for these themes.