Student activists distribute books on racism and LGBTQ+ issues after Katy ISD removes books from library

KATY, Texas (KTRK) – A group of Katy ISD students and parents spoke to a school board meeting Monday night about their concerns about “censorship and intellectual freedom.”

Shannon Flores, Katy ISD’s mother, said: “I strongly oppose the removal of books from Katy ISD shelves for any reason.

Alison Franks, a Jordan high school student, said: “We were supposed to choose our future, but we are being denied the freedom to choose our reading material.

Seven Lakes High School senior Cameron Samuels said: “The wave of censorship related to the purpose of maintaining the status quo leaves eccentric students and BIPOC students struggling on a daily basis. “Censorship is not a legacy to create.”

For the 2021-2022 school year, Katy ISD removed nine books from her school library that were deemed “popularly vulgar” following a public outcry in the fall after a group of parents read passages aloud. classics from some of the nine books.

RELATED: Katy ISD Creates Online Portal For Parents Concerns About Library Books

But now another group is criticizing the book review process.

“Of those nine books, five or 56% contain weird and/or non-binary characters. What message would this send if we were bowing to pressure to delete those books? the book has an odd theme?” Flores said.

Director Ken Gregorski addressed concerns that the books being removed were largely LGBTQ.

“Removing books or any books that we have to take off shelves goes through a committee process and is considered vulgar. That is the only standard by which we remove books. No books. is removed from any of our schools for content that someone may or may not agree with.”

“Taxpayers shouldn’t be funding access to pornography for our students in the school library. It has nothing to do with LGBTQ,” said Claudia Turcott, mother of Katy ISD.

“Book bans reduce and limit the knowledge people can have, which in turn limits thinking and empathy,” says Franks.

Monday night’s return comes after a group of students distributed books addressing racism and LGBTQ+ issues at four schools last week in response to the district’s recent ban on a number of books and websites.

SEE: Student activists fight for resources on racism and LGBTQ+

Cameron Samuels and Maghan Sadeghi were two of the students who spent a week distributing 400 copies of about 32 titles during “FReadom Week” at Seven Lakes, Jordan, Taylor and Tompkins high schools.

They say the books challenge white supremacy and superstition. Sadeghi said she enjoys reading but doesn’t feel like an Iranian-American at school.

“I feel like growing up, I don’t necessarily see people like me in the books that I read,” she says. “Censorship is absolutely a danger to everything the United States has built.

RELATED: Katy ISD parents want to check books from county libraries after claiming they found ‘pornography’

Voters of Tomorrow, a Gen-Z-led nonprofit, donated copies of Art Spiegelman’s Beloved Toni Morrison and Maus to distribute to students. Samuels said publishers and community members donated other titles.

“We are extremely concerned about the recent wave of book bans. Especially books that address racism, the Holocaust, LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights. These two titles are part of a wave of book bans. recently ravaging the country,” voters of Tomorrow wrote in a press release.

Last winter, Katy ISD removed several books from the school library. One of the books, Jerry Craft’s New Kid addresses racism, but was restored after review. Others, which mostly featured LGBTQ+ characters, were removed after some parents complained about inappropriate sexual language and content. The parents pointed to six books: “Me, the Earl and the Dying Girl,” “Forever for a Year,” “Jack of Hearts (and Others),” “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” “The Breakaways,” and “The Nerdy and the Dirty.”

“I know the dangers of parenting in a digital world and all the pornography and sex, but finding book content in my child’s school was a huge slap in the face.” Jennifer Adler’s parent told ABC13 in November 2021.

RELATED: Books taken from Katy ISD after a parent petition are now back on library shelves

The school district was also fired for block sites that provide resources for LGBTQ+ students, citing concerns about the availability of chat rooms. Those sites include the Trevor Project, the Human Rights Campaign, and the Montrose Center. Samuels, who identifies as non-binary and uses the pronoun they/last, says they were fortunate to have access to affirmative material growing up. But they worry about other students who might not.

RELATED: Katy ISD continues to block LGBTQ+ resource sites as students call for change again

“That can have serious consequences for their mental health, their emotional well-being and possibly even their lives. So many students have told me that there is no access to it. accessing affirmative content makes them feel alone and unsupported by the whole world,” they said. “When I was young, coming out and figuring out who I was, I relied on access to internet content, literature, movies, all these plot things and resources to support me. “

Katy ISD issued the following statement to ABC13:

“The district is aware that student clubs may be planning after-hours book distributions at various high schools this week. Student clubs involved in the initiative have spoken. with their campus principal and are following all applicable district policies.

Per Katy’s ISD Policy FNAAApproved student clubs may distribute material and literature, except for any work identified as “popular profanity” as outlined in the policy. EF.

None of the books identified for distribution through this initiative have been banned by the school district or deemed “popularly vulgar”.

Copyright © 2022 KTRK-TV. Copyright Registered. Student activists distribute books on racism and LGBTQ+ issues after Katy ISD removes books from library

Dais Johnston

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