Texas Lawmaker Demands Schools Tell Him If They Have Books on Race, Sexuality

A Republican lawmaker in Texas announced that he has opened an investigation into public school libraries across the state, asking districts to report whether they have books from a list of hundreds of titles dealing with issues like race, gender and sexuality.

A letter addressed to the Texas Education Agency from State Rep. Matt Krause (R), who is chair of the state House Committee on General Investigating, asked that superintendents of schools scour their school libraries to determine whether they have titles from a list of 850 books he deems to be problematic. Krause also asked for additional information on those books and others like them, including how much money the districts spent on obtaining them.

Krause specifically wants to know whether these books are available for students to check out from their libraries. Any books that “contain material that might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex or convey that a student, by virtue of their race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously” should be reported to him, his letter said.

Krause didn’t say that the books should be removed from the shelves. But in his letter, he cited five school districts in the state that removed books from their libraries in response to complaints from parents following passage of a new law barring critical race theory or any other concepts that are related to race or racism in the classroom.

That legislation, which was passed in June, restricts schools from teaching curricula that the state has deemed contentious. The overly broad nature of the law has already led to some disturbing outcomes, including in one Texas school district where the administration told teachers they had to teach “opposing” perspectives of the Holocaust.

The list of books Krause is seeking information on is broad, and contains many award-winning authors. One of the books, The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1967. A book written by Ta-Nehisi Coates called Between the World and Me is also on the list, as is How to Be An Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi.

Books on sexuality are being targeted by Krause, including LGBT Families by Leanne K. Currie-McGhee and The Underground Guide to Teenage Sexuality: An Essential Handbook for Today’s Teens and Parents by Michael J. Basso. The graphic novel iteration of The Handmaid’s Tale is also on the lawmaker’s list.

Author Kalynn Bayron, who wrote the young adult LGBTQ book Cinderella Is Dead, which is featured on Krause’s list, wrote in a social media post that in spite of the lawmaker’s pursuit, young people would still read books like hers.

“I’d like Matt Krause to know that nothing he does will keep my work out of the hands of young readers,” Bayron said on Twitter. “Texas educators are, for the most part, amazing people and we work together to make sure the work gets to the kids who need it most.”

State Rep. Victoria Neave, a Democrat from Dallas who is vice chair of the investigations committee, called Krause’s inquiry a political move. Krause is running to become Texas’s next state attorney general.

“This is an obvious attack on diversity and an attempt to score political points at the expense of our children’s education,” Neave said in a statement.

Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston, agreed that Krause’s actions do appear to be based on politics.

“He’s not well known statewide, and so he needs to put down a pretty tall conservative flag to get notice,” Rottinghaus told The Texas Tribune.