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Texas governor accuses schools of stocking porn in their libraries in stern letter to wrong board

Texas Governor Greg Abbott surrounded himself with fast food sandwiches to sign the "Save Chick-fil-A" bill into law.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott surrounded himself with fast food sandwiches to sign the "Save Chick-fil-A" bill into law.Photo: Twitter/Greg Abbott

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is asking schools to check whether they’re supplying pornography to children in an official letter sent to the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB).

In the letter, Abbott gives no reason to believe that grade schools are giving students access to “pornographic images” other than a vague reference to “a growing number of parents of Texas students” who are “increasingly alarmed.”

Related: Texas high school bans graphic novel on Pulse shooting over its “extreme homosexuality”

“These parents are rightfully angry,” Abbott wrote. “Parents have the right to shield their children from obscene content used in schools their children attend. They are right that Texas public schools should not provide or promote pornographic or obscene material to students.”

Abbott explained that he wrote to the TASB instead of the State Board of Education because school libraries are governed at the district-level.

He said that school districts “have an obligation to Texas parents and students to ensure that no child in Texas is exposed to pornography or other inappropriate content while inside a Texas public school,” and added that school districts need a “transparent process to vet library materials before they are used.”

A spokesperson for the TASB said that the organization is “confused” about the letter since they have “no regulatory authority over school districts” and don’t set any standards for library books.

The letter is also perplexing because it’s unlikely that grade schools in the state are knowingly putting pornography in libraries for kids to use. Abbott could instead be referring to non-pornographic books that offend his sensibilities by, for example, supporting LGBTQ equality.

Last month, Texas Rep. Matt Krause (R-TX) sent a letter to the Texas Education Agency that included a list of 850 books, demanding schools share how many copies of each book they have and how much money they spent to obtain the books.

Most of the books were about LGBTQ topics or racism, including titles like And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson, Being Jazz by Jazz Jennings, and Black Lives Matter: From Hashtag To The Streets by Artike R. Tyner.

Krause was accused of starting a “witch hunt” and wanting to hold a “book burning.”

“This is an obvious attack on diversity,” the Texas State Teachers Association said in a statement, “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?”

Last week the Keller school district in Texas got complaints from several parents about Maia Kobabe’s graphic novel, Gender Queer: A Memoir. The book tells the story of Kobabe’s journey to accepting eir identity as non-binary and asexual and explains ideas around gender and sexual identity.

There are a few parts that discuss eir sex life along the way – as many books about straight people do – but the book is not pornography.

“Welcome to Keller ISD,” wrote parent Kathy May in a tweet on the book. “Yes, a Texas School. Where legitimate visual porn, a felony offense, is in one of our libraries. They were quick to find the book and pulled it from a students hands, realizing the severity of distributing porn.”

May blamed “leftist teachers, librarians, and counselors,” even though those same professionals immediately removed the book from the school when she complained about it.

Kobabe responded to the criticism in a Washington Post op-ed as the book has angered conservative parents across the country.

“Queer youth are often forced to look outside their own homes, and outside the education system, to find information on who they are,” e wrote. “Removing or restricting queer books in libraries and schools is like cutting a lifeline for queer youth, who might not yet even know what terms to ask Google to find out more about their own identities, bodies, and health.”

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