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Eanes ISD postpones annual 'Banned Book Week' lesson following concerns

"The climate is different than it might have been, say, three or four years ago when the lesson was taught previously," said Eanes ISD Superintendent Jeff Arnett.

AUSTIN, Texas — Eanes ISD has postponed the annual "Banned Book Week" at Hill Country Middle School after the district said parents and administration were concerned about the debatable topic. 

"There's a lot of scrutiny of library books now," said Eanes ISD Superintendent Jeff Arnett. "It's a very debatable topic."

Arnett said it is unclear how long the lesson was on the books, but it was brought to the administration's attention late last week. 

"We didn't feel like there was sufficient opportunity for parents to be aware of it and to either opt in or opt out for their own child," said Arnett.

Arnett said some parent complaints and internal concerns led to the district postponing the annual Banned Book Week at the middle school.

He said the lesson focused on the history of banned books and censorship in the country, which Arnett said is not required to teach in Texas.

"There are library standards that talk about intellectual freedom and access to reading materials, and we think that those are very important topics," said Arnett. 

Books have been taken off shelves at districts nationwide for what some deem "inappropriate" sexual content or "offensive" language.

"We just wanted to make sure that the way it's being approached now, considering the current climate, is not just appropriate and in line with the Texas Central Knowledge and Skills, but also that it's consistent across our entire school district," said Arnett.

University of Houston Political Science Professor Brandon Rottinghaus said districts across the country walk a fine line to respect parents' wishes while letting teachers teach.

"They're going to have to be politically pretty savvy about what they're being asked to do and read between the lines when looking at what they're not asked to do, but expected to do," said Rottinghaus.

He said while banning books in schools is not a central issue in the governor's race, it's certainly a big issue and will be something that legislatively is going to be dealt with in the next legislative session.

"This has become a national story. We've seen elections in other states that have been won and lost on this," said Rottinghaus. 

So while Banned Book Week doesn't typically touch on current events, Arnett said district librarians are working to create a cohesive approach to educate kids about this topic at all campuses in the future, if appropriate. 

"The climate is different than it might have been, say, three or four years ago when the lesson was taught previously," said Arnett. "So we have an obligation to pay attention to what's going on in our community."


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