Keller Independent School District in Keller, TX, recently appeared to violate its own policies when it removed several books from school library shelves: Panic, by Sharon Draper; Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts), by L.C. Rosen; Infinity Reaper (Infinity Cycle 2), by Adam Silvera; Flamer, by Mike Curato; L8r, g8r, by Lauren Myracle; and Gender Queer, by Maia Kobabe. NCAC has written the District to urge them to return all of the books to the shelves until formal reviews can take place, as is demanded by policy.

Based on comments made by Superintendent Westfall at the Board’s November 15, 2021 meeting, as well as information posted on the District’s website, it appears that the District removed several books from school libraries without submitting those books to the District’s book challenge procedures, despite the fact that District policy expressly states that “[a]ccess to a challenged resource shall not be restricted during the reconsideration process”.

Book challenges are often highly contentious and emotional, and the District’s regulations are crafted to guarantee that all parties feel that they have been heard and respected, and also to ensure that decisions are made based on objective criteria which focus on the needs of students. For example, the District policy requires that books be reviewed by a committee that includes all stakeholders; that the committee consider the book as a whole, rather than judged on select passages out of context; that the final decision is primarily based on the educational value of the book; and that books not be removed solely because of the ideas they express.

The books in question may not appeal to every student. But a school library is meant to include a broad selection of books that provide value to students. For example, Gender Queer, clearly has value for many students, especially “those who identify as nonbinary or asexual as well as for those who know someone who identifies that way and wish to better understand,” as noted by the School Library Journal. It was a 2020 American Library Association Alex Award Winner, a 2020 Stonewall — Israel Fishman Non-fiction Award Honor Book. By exempting these particular books from the standard procedures, the District raises the suspicion that the removal of the book was motivated by hostility to the book’s position on gender nonconformity.

Read the full letter to the school district below. Click here for a full screen view: