June 26, 2022

Leander ISD families protest against recommended list for student book clubs

Some Leander ISD students took sick leave on Wednesday, but not because they were not feeling well. Parents in the community hosted the LISD SICK Day event to bring attention to an ongoing controversy surrounding books.

“The district basically took an academically rigorous book list for the language arts and completely overhauled it,” said “Marie,” a parent of Leander ISD who wanted to remain anonymous.

Parents FOX 7 has spoken to are frustrated with the Recommended Reading List for Student Book Clubs – this is how students get their language art credits. They worry about what is not on the playlist and what is there.

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“They are just laden with profanity in a sense that adds no value to any sort of critical thinking or analysis of the books themselves,” said “Noni,” another parent who wanted to remain anonymous.

Noni and Marie said the books on the reading list included scenes of child rape, gang rape, swearing and explicit sexual content.

“It’s like porn,” said Craig Buchner, another parent talking about one of the books on the list, “In the Dream House,” which is currently being re-evaluated by a school district committee.

“It’s one thing if he hears this profanity from other kids at school,” Buchner said, referring to his 12th grade student. “It’s another thing when it’s a book written by an adult and endorsed by adults.”

Along with graphic text, parents are concerned about the academic level of the books. For example, a book assigned to grade 9 students has a Lexile text measure of HL660L, which corresponds to a reading level of about grade 3.

Additionally, parents have stated that some of the “classic” novels on the list, like “The Handmaid’s Tale”, are in fact versions of graphic novels, written by an entirely different author.

“Our problem is, these are graphic novels with barely any words,” Marie said. “This is a language art class, and these kids will have problems preparing for college after graduation.”

However, a district spokesperson said book clubs purposely offer a variety of options to accommodate students of different reading levels. The aim is to offer diverse, interesting and accessible options that readers of all skill levels can learn to analyze, critique and discuss.

The district also has a Community Program Advisory Committee – made up of parents, students, principals and community members – which continually reviews the books on the list. Six have been retired this school year, including this version of “The Handmaid’s Tale”. There are currently 120 under reassessment.

Earlier this month, the authors of the delisted books – and others under review – signed a letter defending their literature, pointing out that many books are stories featuring LGBTQIA + characters or characters of various ethnicities.

In the letter, they said in part: “Exposure to such books is vital to the project of building empathy, correcting historical gaps in stories shared and consumed, and forging a more inclusive, equitable and just society.”

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However, parents FOX 7 spoke to said these arguments were irrelevant. “It’s frustrating to hear stories from parents concerned about the content of child rape in their children’s textbooks and confuse this with LGBTQ fanaticism,” said Marie. “I really disagree with that, it’s not the truth, they are twisting the issue.”

They said the issue also goes beyond the books themselves.

“There are a lot of boundary violations that happen in the classroom, with teachers sort of forcing their personal views on the students,” Noni said. “It violates district policy and doesn’t teach critical thinking skills when you tell students what to think and teach them how to think for themselves. “

A spokesperson for Leander ISD said the district has had an ongoing dialogue with the community about the book club‘s program since last fall. They shared the following statement with FOX 7:

“Leander ISD strongly believes that students should go to school. We continue to work with our community to assess the curriculum and prepare our students for living in a diverse world. Whenever parents have concerns about the material offered in our schools, our teachers and staff do everything possible to listen, engage and provide flexibility when needed. Our staff will continue to assess Book Club titles through our Community Program Advisory Committee while encouraging independent reading by providing choices encompassing a variety of subjects, voices and cultures. We look forward to fine-tuning our process to ensure these goals are met while respecting the concerns of members of our community. “