Free speech group says ‘chilling’ Texas bill would restrict books in schools

A national free speech group has warned of a “dangerously escalating” effort by Texas lawmakers to limit the books students can use in schools.

This week, Rep. Tom Oliverson (R-Cypress) introduced a bill that would create a state-mandated rating for school library books based on age appropriateness.

But such a system gives government officials “unprecedented power” to decide what students and families can read, potentially based on subjective and potentially politicized decisions, PEN America officials said in a news release.

It was a “clear effort to intimidate publishers and police the flow of ideas and information,” the statement continued. “Just introducing this kind of censorship legislation is chilling.”

Oliveson could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.

The bill, one of hundreds introduced this week ahead of the next legislative session, introduces a proposed rating system that would require publishers to indicate whether a book is suitable for children under the age of seven. and graphic violence” will be marked for use by persons 17 and over only.

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According to the proposal, ratings would be required to be “affixed to the cover of each book”. Schools could be banned from buying any books from publishers if they don’t comply.

“For a student like me, it was terrifying to witness these unprecedented efforts to erase our identity and our history,” said Cameron Samuels, a recent Katy ISD high school graduate.

Samuels spoke at a virtual event Wednesday to discuss the book ban campaign hosted by the Our Common Future movement, which supports high-quality and inclusive K-12 education.

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“Students across the country are facing the chilling effect of censorship,” Samuels said.

With the proposal, Oliveson, who serves as vice chairman of the Texas House Republican Caucus, joins other conservatives who have recently pushed for stricter restrictions on what students can read.

Starting with efforts to ban the teaching of critical race theory in schools—an academic framework that explores how policy and law support systemic racism—conservatives have also begun to focus on topics around race and gender. Sex and LGBTQ issues.

This week, the Keller School Board adopted a policy banning gender fluidity from library books for all grades.

Keller school trustees ban books on gender fluidity, debate arms men

A September report, also from PEN America, found that Texas has removed more books from school libraries this year than any other state, with more than 800 books removed between July 2021 and June 2022. Removed from school bookshelves.

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The DMN Education Lab deepens coverage and conversations on urgent education issues critical to the future of North Texas.

The DMN Education Lab is a community-funded journalism initiative supported by Baker Group, Bobby and Lottye Lyle, Texas Community Foundation, Dallas Foundation, Dallas Area Chamber of Commerce, Deedie Rose, Garrett and Cecilia Boone, Meadows Fund Society, The Murrell Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network, Southern Methodist University, Sydney Smith Hicks, Todd A. Williams Family Foundation and University of Texas at Dallas. The Dallas Morning News retains full editorial control over Education Lab news.

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