The civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Education has opened a federal investigation into a Texas school district, alleging that officials violated the rights of LGBTQ students when they ordered librarians to remove books with LGBTQ themes from schools.
The investigation, which was opened on December 6, notes that the superintendent of the Granbury Independent School District, located in northern Texas, used transphobic language during a meeting with school librarians earlier this year.
“There are two genders. There’s male, and there’s female,” Granbury ISD superintendent Jeremy Glenn wrongly asserted in an audio recording made in January. “And I acknowledge that there are men that think they’re women. And there are women that think they’re men. And again, I don’t have any issues with what people want to believe, but there’s no place for it in our libraries.”
Glenn made clear to his employees which books he specifically wanted removed. “It’s the transgender, LGBTQ and the sex — sexuality — in books,” he said.
Contrary to Glenn’s comments, experts agree that gender is a spectrum and that there are a diverse range of gender identities outside of male and female. “The idea that a person’s sex is determined by their anatomy at birth is not true, and we’ve known that it’s not true for decades,” endocrinologist Joshua D. Safer told The New York Times in 2018.
The district’s librarians complied with the order, removing “dozens of books related to LGBTQ+ themes and characters” from the shelves, according to a complaint from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in July. Some titles were returned in response to outcry from parents and educators, though many remain missing.
The complaint from the ACLU, which was made in response to joint reporting from NBC News and ProPublica earlier this year, noted that Glenn’s comments and the district’s actions “create[d] a chilling atmosphere in which students who reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity risk opprobrium, stigma, and exposing themselves to further discrimination.”
“The message is clear: these students should ‘hide’ their full selves in order to be accepted in Granbury ISD. The school district has actively facilitated discrimination and hateful rhetoric,” the complaint stated.
The complaint encouraged the Department of Education to investigate the matter, which it announced it would do earlier this month. It’s believed to be the first instance of the department opening a civil rights investigation into a school district for its removal of LGBTQ books from libraries.
The titles that were removed included “Trans Teen Survival Guide” by Owl and Fox Fisher, “Trans Voices” by Declan Henry, and “This Book is Gay” by Juno Dawson.
Dawson spoke out against book banning last month.
“The campaign to ban books in some parts of the U.S. is out of control,” the U.K. author wrote in a tweet. “It’s not, and has never been, about ‘protecting children’. It’s about political grandstanding and bad faith actors promoting a far-right agenda.”
The stakes have never been higher (and our need for your support has never been greater).
For over two decades, Truthout’s journalists have worked tirelessly to give our readers the news they need to understand and take action in an increasingly complex world. At a time when we should be reaching even more people, big tech has suppressed independent news in their algorithms and drastically reduced our traffic. Less traffic this year has meant a sharp decline in donations.
The fact that you’re reading this message gives us hope for Truthout’s future and the future of democracy. As we cover the news of today and look to the near and distant future we need your help to keep our journalists writing.
Please do what you can today to help us keep working for the coming months and beyond.