- A GOP lawmaker has spearheaded the push to ban books in Texas, an investigation by the Houston Chronicle has revealed.
- In 2021, State Rep. Matt Krause asked school districts to review a list of 850 books.
- Texas now has the highest number of book bans in the US.
Texas librarian Carolyn Foote noticed a trend in the spring of 2021 as she prepared to retire — the challenges for children’s books in school libraries, particularly those related to race and sexuality, were increasing.
After leaving her post, she said what greatly accelerated the bans was a list of 850 books for districts to send to the Texas Education Agency in October 2021.
“I was a librarian for 29 years and we had three book challenges,” Foote, one of the founders of the #FReadomFighters movement, told Insider.
Texas is now at the forefront of book bans, and an influential politician — along with pressure from the GOP — may have been the driving force, a Houston Chronicle investigation has found.
State Assemblyman Matt Krause — also chairman of the General Investigating Committee, which conducts inquiries into government affairs — conducted the book survey to determine how many school districts had books on subjects that “contain material that might cause students to feel uncomfortable, guilty, afraid, or of any kind.” other form of mental distress,” based on race or gender, according to a letter seen by the Texas Tribune.
The book reviews were optional (Krause did not have the authority to make them mandatory), but after the list was released, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott stepped in, urging schools to review books containing “pornographic or obscene material.” ” contained.
As of April 2022, a PEN America analysis found that Texas had 713 bans, nearly half of all book bans in the United States.
“You know, we’d like to praise each other if we could”
Of 2,080 books removed from schools by districts since 2018, two-thirds of the reviews came after Krause sent out his list, the Chronicle analysis found.
In an interview with Insider, Krause contradicted the claim that everything boils down to a politician, saying that in the state, parents are the ones who pay attention to the types of books their children read.
“You know, we’d love to praise each other if we could,” Krause said. “But it’s really no merit. We just echoed what we had already heard from a group of parents regarding the state of concern about what books are available in particular school districts.”
Many of the titles on Krause’s book list were written by authors of color and LGBTQ. The Chronicle analysis found that this influenced the types of book reviews that dominated school districts: 1,334 book reviews featured stories about LGBTQ+, while 609 prominent people of color or racial issues covered.
Krause told Insider he couldn’t specify whether or not his office created the list because of “pending or potential investigations.” He also told the Dallas Morning News in 2021 he didn’t think he’d read any of the books on his list.
Krause told Insiders the reason for his efforts is to ensure schools comply with the Texas state’s Race and Sexuality Act, which was passed during the 2021 legislature.
Abbott signed a “critical race theory” bill into law in June 2021, banning material that would instill in students in social studies curricula “discomfort, guilt, fear, or any other form of psychological distress based on the person’s race or sex.” The bill was replaced by the broader Senate Bill 3 in December.
In the House, Krause voted yes to both HB 3979 and SB 3.
Texas didn’t pass LGBTQ-specific education legislation during the last legislative session, but Texas Lt. Gov Dan Patrick announced earlier this year that he would prioritize passage of a law modeled on what critics are calling Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law.
“I think it’s good for students, and I think it’s appropriate and healthy for students to be exposed to different viewpoints, different viewpoints, ideologies, beliefs and things like that throughout school, but I think you can do that do in an age-appropriate manner and in an appropriate and appropriate manner,” Krause said.
Krause told Insider that the only personally offensive books he could think of were Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer and Jonathan Evison’s Lawn Boy. Both books deal with LGBTQ issues and sometimes contain sexually explicit material.
But Foote said many of the books she encountered on the list contained no explicit material and academic rigor was not used in compiling the list.
“If this list was really supposed to ensure that schools are up to the law, then I’m very unsure how all these types of titles ended up on the list,” Foote said. “It seemed a lot more purposeful in terms of someone’s belief systems.”
Ricardo Martinez, CEO of nonprofit LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Texas, said the number of books featuring LGBTQ characters and authors on Krause’s list is concerning, particularly given the large number of anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in the Texas legislature in 2021.
“It’s disappointing that we’re perceived as just a simple punching bag,” Martinez told Insider.
Krause is known for being at odds with the LGBTQ community in Texas
Krause represents District 93 in Tarrant County, which includes parts of Fort Worth and Arlington. He has served his district for five two-year terms.
In 2022, he ran for district attorney but lost the primary. He also ran for attorney general, but his name did not appear on the ballot.
Krause’s legislative record, particularly on LGBTQ issues, has put him in the spotlight before: in 2013, Equality Texas named him the state’s most homophobic legislator. He also sponsored and authored several anti-LGBTQ laws, such as 2017’s HB 1923, which would have allowed companies to deny services to LGBTQ couples based on religious beliefs. The bill was never passed.
Krause was an associate professor at Liberty University Online, an evangelical college in Virginia that banned “statements and behavior associated with LGBT mental states,” as well as pronouns that differ from the gender assigned at birth, reported the Dallas Morning News in 2021.
He also has ties to WallBuilders, a Christian organization that seeks to uphold the “moral, religious and constitutional basis on which America was built,” the Morning News reported.
Krause is also anti-abortion and has previously attempted—and failed—to mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. To establish Wade as the nationwide “Day of Tears”.
He defended himself against the Dallas Morning News article, saying that while his beliefs “play a part in everything I do,” that wasn’t why he launched the investigation.
Krause is leaving office next year and won’t issue another book inquiry, but he said Texans may still see book lists reviewing other laws — it all depends on who heads the investigative committee.
Some politicians and parents’ associations disagreed with the investigation
Krause denies any political motivation behind the book list, but critics disagree.
For Foote, the book bans represent political motivations of the GOP, citing school board officials and lawmakers who have started their own book challenges.
Not all school districts approved of Krause’s investigation, and many of the books remained in schools after reviews were completed. San Antonio’s Northeast ISD banned or partially banned 119 books listed in Krause’s document, the most of any county, after hundreds of books were pulled from shelves for review.
In a statement to the Chronicle, a spokesman for NEISD said the books had been moved to an elementary school library for “age-friendliness” reasons. A NEISD spokesman did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.
Krause’s colleague on the Texas General Investigating Committee, Rep. Victoria Neave Criado, opposed his calls for districts to review their reading material, previously calling the book investigation a “whitewash” of history.
—Victoria Neave Criado (@Victoria4Texas) October 28, 2021
A Criado representative did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
The new frontier of book bans: self-censorship
Foote, along with other groups in Texas, has made some strides in keeping books on shelves.
But now, Foote says, lurking behind the book bans is the self-censorship that librarians are now grappling with, in anticipation of backlash from politicians or parent groups, or fear of personal repercussions.
“We don’t know how many things aren’t being bought now because teachers are afraid to have them in their classroom, because libraries are afraid to have them… so there’s a lot of kind of self-censorship and self-restraint that’s happening ‘Cause people are scared,” Foote said.
A May survey of 720 US school libraries by School Library Journal found that librarians censor themselves. Almost 30% of respondents said they made a choice not to buy books featuring LGBTQ characters.
Foote said this creates a “forbidding environment” for both librarians and students who find themselves in the midst of these struggles.
“The fact that by removing or censoring books about LGBTQ characters or characters of color, we’re basically telling them you don’t belong in our library,” Foote said. “Your story doesn’t belong in our libraries, which means you don’t belong here.”