TTYL‚ by Lauren Myracle was removed from middle school libraries throughout Round Rock ISD. One student’s parents challenged TTYL‚ because they objected to sexual content and profanity in the book. Two review committees evaluated the book and recommended that it be kept on library shelves. However, before the school board could review the matter, Superintendent Jesús Chávez had the book removed from middle school libraries throughout the district. ABFFE and NCAC sent the following letter to the school board:
Members of the Round Rock ISD Board of Trustees
Round Rock Independent School District
1311 Round Rock Ave.
Round Rock, Texas 78681
November 21, 2008
Dear Members of the Round Rock ISD Board of Trustees,
We write to oppose the removal of TTYL, a book by Lauren Myracle, from middle school libraries throughout Round Rock ISD. We understand that the book was challenged by one student’s parents who objected to sexual content and profanity. We also understand that two review committees voted to retain it. The parents appealed to the board of trustees. However, before the board could act, the school superintendent, Dr. Jesus Chávez, banned the book from middle school libraries.
This is a direct violation of district policy.
In his letter to the parents who challenged the book, Dr. Chávez states that “[b]ecause I have instructed that the book be removed from middle school libraries, there is no further issue to be considered by the Board of Trustees and the scheduled appeal for reconsideration of instructional materials is moot.” In our view, the district review policy does not grant the superintendent this power. The review process, which requires that challenged materials be evaluated by committees of educators, parents, and community members, and, finally, the board of trustees, is designed to ensure that no individual acting alone may remove a book.
Circumventing the district’s normal review process is both unfair and unreasonable. Review procedures should be applied on a uniform and non-discriminatory basis, to ensure that educational standards are not compromised. Such a process is essential to guard against subjective judgments and to ensure that books are only removed for pedagogically sound and legally sufficient reasons. Books should never be removed prior to the completion of the review process as they were in this case.
By removing the book against the recommendations of both committees and before the board could review it, Dr. Chávez has effectively permitted one student’s parents to impose their opinion on everyone else. Parents may be equipped to make choices for their own children, but, no matter how well-intentioned, they simply are not equipped to make decisions for others. In fact, the district’s policy for review of challenged materials states that “No parent has the right to determine reading, viewing, or listening matter for students other than his or her own children.” It also says, “When learning resources are challenged, the principles of the freedom to read/listen/view must be defended as well.”
Some parents do not want their children to read about sex; others, while strongly disapproving of teen sexual activity, may still give their children the freedom to read about it. Some parents appreciate books like TTYL because they can create opportunities for adults and teens to talk about sensitive topics. Even if the book’s themes are too mature for some students, they will be meaningful to others. No book is right for everyone, and the role of the library is to allow students to make choices according to their own interests, experiences, and family values. No one has to read something just because it’s on the library shelf.
We strongly urge you to restore TTYL to the middle school libraries in Round Rock ISD and to adhere to district policy when reviewing challenged materials. Individual freedom, democracy, and a good education all depend on protecting the right to read, inquire, question, and think for ourselves.
If we can be of assistance in this matter, please do not hesitate to contact us.
National Coalition Against Censorship
American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
Read local news coverage in the Austin American-Statesman