A Texas lawmaker is being accused of “book burning” after demanding schools list all the books about racism and LGBTQ people available to students.
State Rep. Matt Krause (R), chair of the Texas House Committee on General Investigating, sent a letter to the Texas Education Agency, in addition to some school district superintendents, that included a list of 850 books under investigation, the Texas Tribune reported.
Krause demanded schools share how many copies of each book they have and how much money they spent to obtain the books.
He also said schools should identify any other books they have that cover topics related to sexuality, HIV/AIDS, and STIs, as well as any book that might make students feel “discomfort” or “psychological distress” by “consciously or unconsciously” implying that their race is “inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive,” using language from white parents this past year who protested school districts to stop teaching about racism.
Included on the list of books are many innocuous books that simply try to teach about diversity and respecting LGBTQ people, like My Two Uncles by Judith Vigna, And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson, Rainbow Revolutionaries: 50 LGBTQ+ People Who Made History by Sarah Prager, Being Jazz by Jazz Jennings, and Coming Out as Transgender, by Corona Brezina.
There are also books on racism such as Black Lives Matter: From Hashtag To The Streets by Artike R. Tyner and Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall, in addition to books about gender equality and reproductive rights.
In the letter, Krause mentioned several Texas schools that removed books from libraries and classrooms after parents and other people complained.
Many of these removals were fueled by a controversial new Texas law, H.B. 3979, which seeks to limit the teaching of “critical race theory” in schools and says schools may not teach that “an individual, by virtue of the individual ’s race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”
Critical race theory is a school of legal thought developed by Black law professors last century. A central tenet of critical race theory is that laws and institutions can perpetuate racism even if they’re not explicitly racist, but it does not say that white people are inherently racist.
Krause used the same language in the letter to describe the books he is seeking to investigate and said information about any books that imply someone is inherently racist or sexist must be turned over.
The letter does not specify what Kraus plans to do with the results of the investigation or which schools he is investigating.
But teachers are not happy.
In a statement titled “Krause’s letter smacks of a witch hunt,” the Texas State Teachers Association slammed Krause, who is currently running for Texas Attorney General, for his “disturbing and political overreach.” The association declared that no state law gives him the authority to investigate schools in this manner.
“This is an obvious attack on diversity,” the statement said, “and an attempt to score political points at the expense of our children’s education. What will Rep. Krause propose next? Burning books he and a handful of parents find objectionable?”
State Rep. Victoria Neave (D), vice chair of the Committee on General Investigating, told the Texas Tribune that Kraus did not inform her that he was going to launch this investigation.
“His letter is reflective of the Republican Party’s attempt to dilute the voice of people of color,” she said.
Kraus previously worked as an attorney for the Liberty Counsel, an anti-LGBTQ advocacy organization and Southern Poverty Law Center designated hate group. This year, he also introduced HB 166, which seeks to ban gender-affirming healthcare for minors.
Today I filed HB 166 which would prohibit gender modification surgeries/procedures/treatments for children under 18. This bill is similar to HB 1399 from the regular session. It’s an important topic for the legislature to address, & the sooner the better. Let’s get it done! pic.twitter.com/i3ttkZZrFL
— Matt Krause (@RepMattKrause) July 9, 2021