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Bible lumped in with graphic literature in school ban review


Sixteen Miles Out | Unsplash | CC0

John Burger - published on 08/19/22

School district administrator seeks to tamp down media uproar over "censorship" reports.

The Bible is not being banned by a school district in Texas, contrary to the impression left in various media reports. 

So says the superintendent of the Keller Independent School District north of Fort Worth.

Writing to families of students and employees this week, Rick Westfall, Superintendent of Keller ISD, said that recent media coverage of an email that was sent to principals and librarians on Tuesday requesting that books be removed from classrooms and libraries was blown out of proportion. 

“Most importantly, I want to assure you that Keller ISD is not banning the Bible or the Diary of Anne Frank, as has been suggested in some headlines and shared on social media,” Westfall wrote. 

The Texas Tribune and other news outlets reported Thursday that the school district was removing all books that were challenged last year, including the Bible, a graphic novel adaptation of Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.

This week, Jennifer Price, executive director of Keller ISD’s curriculum and instruction, in an email sent to principals instructed them to set aside 41 book titles pending the outcome of a review process. The books included all versions of the Bible and Gender Queer: A Memoir, in which author Maia Kobabe describes her journey of gender identity and sexual orientation. 

Books under review

Some of the books on the list had already been cleared by a review panel that met last year, but the election of three new members to the school district’s seven-member board of trustees led to new policies forcing a reexamination. The Tribune and other media pointed out that the three new members had been supported in their efforts to get elected to the board by donations from a conservative Christian political fund. 

Westfall’s email explained:

Last week, Keller ISD’s Board of Trustees approved new policies EFA (Local) and EFB (Local) related to the acquisition and review of instructional materials and library books. Under the new EFB (Local), books that have been challenged by community members as being inappropriate for schools are required to be removed from shelves and held in a Parental Consent Area until the challenge process is complete. Previously challenged books are also being moved to a Parental Consent Area to determine if those books meet the new standards in the policy and the guidelines that will soon be considered by the Board. 

“I would like to remind everyone that the list of challenged books was not created by Keller ISD or any Keller ISD employee, but by parents and community members,” Westfall said. “With a new policy and new guidelines in place, these titles will simply once again be reviewed through the lens of this new policy.”

He said that if the books pass the new standards, as determined by reviews conducted in coordination with campus administration and librarians, the books will be promptly returned to shelves. “We anticipate that books like the Bible, Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation, and other titles will be on shelves very soon,” adding that the Diary, an account of the Holocaust from the perspective of a teenage Jewish girl, was not totally banned; only the graphic novel based on it was.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency said that objections to it might have stemmed from references to female genitalia, same-sex attraction and other sexual matters, “which have been deemed ‘pornographic’ by parental challenges in the past.”

As to why the Bible ended up on a list with books many of which promote sexual deviation, the Huffington Post noted that its challenger complained that the Scriptures were written by “men who lived a long time ago.”

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