Proposed bills could make it a crime to show children “obscene” or “harmful” material in class
Some conservative Texas lawmakers want to ban sexually explicit books from school libraries, even as the Biden administration seeks to punish a conservative-leaning Texas school district for removing them.
Last month, the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights launched an investigation into the Granbury Independent School District (ISD) for removing sexualized content from school libraries. The removed materials included LGBT themes.
The investigation, believed to be the first of its kind in Texas, was opened after ACLU of Texas filed a complaint against the district on July 8, 2022. It is the latest effort by the Biden Administration to prohibit the removal of LGBT materials through the protections afforded by federal anti-discrimination guidelines.
Title IX is the common name used for a federal civil rights law enacted in 1972. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in schools or education-related programs that receive federal funds. The Biden administration says the protections are extended to include gender identity and sexual orientation.
Progressive lawmakers say removing LGBT materials from K-12 school libraries discriminates against LGBT students, who should be protected under Title IX. Conservative-led states such as Texas and Florida have rejected that claim.
change of laws
To try to address the problem of “obscene or harmful material or conduct in schools,” Texas Republican lawmakers have introduced eight bills for the 2023 legislative session that began Jan. 10.
Seven bills attack the problem by proposing changes to the Texas Penal Code, which prohibits the “sale, distribution, or display of harmful material” to minors unless there is a “scientific, educational, governmental, or similar” justification.
The proposed bills would eliminate or revise the educational and scientific justification for showing harmful material to minors, paving the way for misdemeanor charges against school administrators who allow obscene material in schools.
“Harmful material” is defined in Texas law as content with a pervasive theme that appeals to a minor’s prurient interest in “sex, nudity, or excretion” and is patently offensive to the standards prevailing in the adult community, as a whole, and lacks redemptive social value for minors.
An eighth Republican-sponsored bill would require publishers to grade any books sold to school districts for violent and sexual content based on age.
Rep. Steve Toth, Republican of Woodlands, Texas, introduced HB 111one of seven obscenity bills, after fighting his local school district over sexually inappropriate books in Conroe ISD, such as previously reported in The Epoch Times. He and his parents lobbied unsuccessfully to have the books removed.
Toth told The Epoch Times that Texas would continue to stand up to the Biden administration’s attempt to pressure schools to accept an LGBT agenda, despite investigations and threats of legal action.
“We are going to address it legislatively,” Toth said. Title IX hasn’t changed, he said, just because President Joe Biden says it has.
“The Constitution does not give you the ability to do that. There have been no changes to Title IX. There has not been a historic decision that has gone through the courts.”
The Granbury investigation began when the ACLU of Texas filed a complaint based on a secretly recorded meeting between school district librarians and Granbury Superintendent Jeremy Glenn last January.
The organization, which promotes LGBT rights, claimed that the Granbury district engaged in anti-LGBT discrimination because its superintendent, Jeremy Glenn, “denied the existence of transgender and non-binary people” at the meeting.
The complaint quoted the superintendent as saying, “There are two genders. There is a male, and there is a female. And I recognize that there are men who believe they are women and women who believe they are men”.
Science holds that there are two biological sexes: male and female. In rare cases, children are born intersex, with male and female genitalia.
However, progressives promote the idea of a gender continuum and that intersex births are common. Proponents maintain that children and adults can change their gender through the use of hormones or surgery.
In the 10-minute audio made in January 2022, Glenn told librarians that the district was conservative and school board members don’t want sexually explicit books in school libraries.
The ACLU of Texas complaint quoted the superintendent as saying “there is no place for it in our libraries,” referring to materials on becoming transgender. He said Glenn ordered district librarians to remove books about “transgender, LGBTQ” from the shelves in Granbury ISD.
However, the ACLU’s complaint used strategic quotes and omitted the full context of what Glenn said, according to the audio recording reviewed by The Epoch Times. The superintendent noted that he did not want books in district libraries on “how to become transgender or sex.”
In the recording, Glenn is heard saying that “Transgender, LGBTQ, and Sex: Sexuality in the Books” needed to be checked out of school libraries. Glenn can also be heard telling the librarians that Granbury was “going to be conservative”, regardless of his personal beliefs.
Glenn also refers to a book that he says has a “provocative cover” and talks about a co-worker’s apparent embarrassment when he saw him review the book.
“And the point is that a 14-year-old girl doesn’t need to pick up the book in our library and read it,” Glenn is heard on the recording telling the librarians at the meeting.
He also commented during the meeting about a title called “This Book Is Gay,” which is intended to get parents in other Texas school districts to remove it from schools. The book provides step-by-step instructions on how to have gay sex and use sex apps to find a partner.
“I don’t want a child to pick up a book, whether it’s about homosexuality or heterosexuality, and read about connecting sexually in our libraries,” Glenn is heard saying on the recording.
Glenn did not respond to requests for comment from The Epoch Times.
The ACLU of Texas caused controversy over the summer during a school board training in which it presented the Biden administration’s Title IX guidance on the rights of transgender and LGBT people as fact. The ACLU warned districts that those who discriminate against LGBT students could face litigation.
Since then, the ACLU of Texas has filed complaints with the US Department of Education in several Texas school districts about transgender rights and now about library books.
The organization, which advocates progressive positions, filed a complaint against Frisco ISD on November 21, 2022, saying the district’s bathroom policy discriminated against transgender students under Title IX.
District policy says that students are to use the restrooms based on their biological sex. However, the district used a loophole in its policy to say that transgender students could use the bathroom of their chosen gender, if they request and receive “an accommodation.”
Title IX confusion
No final case has been decided on Title IX protections for transgender students, and courts have ruled both for and against the Biden administration’s guidelines.
Conservatives in Florida applauded a Dec. 30 ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upholding a law backed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican.
The Atlanta-based court ruled 7-4 that the St. Johns County School Board in Florida did not violate Title IX by barring a biological student, living as a transgender child, from using a boys’ restroom.
Writing for the majority, Judge Barbara Lagoa held that the school board’s restroom policy “advances the important governmental objective of protecting student privacy in school restrooms.”
Lagoa wrote that a policy could legally classify based on biological sex without illegally discriminating based on transgender status.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit interpreted the law differently.
Judges ruled that a restroom policy in Virginia’s Gloucester County schools violated Title IX by restricting access to boys’ restrooms to biological children.
In that 2-1 decision, the 4th Circuit judges affirmed that their ruling was in accordance with a US Supreme Court decision asserting that LGBT people are protected by a federal law that prohibits discrimination in the workplace.
The judges were referring to the landmark decision in Bostock v. Clayton County. In that ruling, the judges said that Title VII protects employees from being fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Title VII says that employers cannot discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
The Texas bill is similar to a proposed 2023 Oklahoma measure. During the 2022 sessions, lawmakers from Florida, Missouri, Tennessee and Utah adopted bills banning sexually explicit books in school libraries.
Nanette Holt and John Haughey contributed to this report.