NEISD responds to concerns about book review process

District claims book review process first began in the spring

San Antonio – The North East Independent School District is clarifying its decision to review hundreds of books currently in their libraries that may be seen as inappropriate to certain school age children.

Aubrey Chancellor, the executive director of communications for the district, said they were looking into a mass book review prior to State Representative Matt Krause’s call to investigate 850 books where most of them were race or LGBTQ related in public schools.

That letter was released in October.

“Back in the spring, it came to our attention that we had at least one or two books that were questionable or inappropriate,” Chancellor said. “They were brought to the attention of the superintendent who found the books, read them and said, ‘Wow. This really raises questions for me about what else could possibly be on our shelves.’”

With 800,000 books in 67 of the district’s libraries, school officials were trying to figure out where to begin which is why they used Krause’s 850-book list at a jumping off point.

“We determined we had 414 of the books on that list so we were like, ‘Let’s go ahead and do our due diligence and start the review process of these books,’” she said. “I want to be clear. We do expect that the vast majority of these books will be just fine. And in fact, we have already reviewed more than a hundred of them in a matter of days and have determined they are age appropriate.”

The district has said they have received some concerns from upset students, parents and staff.

“Initially, when the community began to learn about this, there was a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about what was going on,” Chancellor said. “We had some students take to social media. Employees and parents voiced their concern but once we spoke with them and actually called some of the students and told them what was going on, they were like, ‘We understand now and we appreciate you guys are looking out for us.’”

Chancellor said this book review is not an attack on the LGBTQ community or any minority community.

“We do not care if the characters in the book are female or male, we simply care about the fact that there is obscene and vulgar material and whether that is appropriate for elementary school, middle school or high school students,” she said. “We are not concerned whether a book has to do with Black Lives Matter. Whether it has to do with heterosexuality or homosexuality. We don’t care who the author is. None of that. The thing we are looking for is vulgar and obscene material.”

She specified on what they are really watching for.

“I can tell you that in at least one of the books that I have read myself, it would not be something that you all would put on air,” she said. “And that is when you need to question whether that is appropriate for children. We are talking about sexually explicit language in the book. Whether it is between two females, two males. A female or male. All of that is irrelevant. It is whether or not it is appropriate for elementary aged, 14-year-old, or 18-year old. What is appropriate for them to be reading at those particular ages.”

Chancellor addressed how sexually explicit material may have gotten in their libraries to begin with.

“We have always relied on the publishers to let us know what is age-appropriate,” she said. “Well clearly, that is not always accurate. So, we need to go back to the drawing board and figure out how better to review our books in our libraries. It is very difficult for a librarian to read hundreds and hundreds of books, so we rely heavily on that publisher. We need to determine a better way to make sure these books are in the hands of the appropriate aged students.”

She said at this time, the judgement of the books is the responsibility of each librarian in the district.

“It is up to the librarians,” she said. “They have so much expertise and knowledge and education specific for that field. We trust they will be able to determine the right decision. They are tasked with taking these books, researching them, reading portions of them. Diving deep. They will determine if they are appropriate or not. Are they more appropriate for secondary level and not elementary? Are they appropriate for a different section of the library? Or are they so inappropriate that they really shouldn’t be on our shelves at all. They will even see if it is best to have these books in a separate section that would need parental permission or be designated for our oldest high schoolers.”

Chancellor said since Thursday. They have already reviewed half of the 414 books on their list.

“We wholly anticipate the majority of these book titles are fine and age appropriate, but we want to make sure and double check that we don’t have a few that have slipped through the cracks,” she said. “We have to do our due diligence. If you know you have something inappropriate it is only right to make sure you don’t have any other items that may be inappropriate.”

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