US Department of Education investigates Texas schools removing LGBTQ+ books

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The removal of LGBTQ-themed books from a library in Texas is under investigation by the US Department of Education’s civil rights division. 

Granbury school district is under investigation in what appears to be the first a case tied to the nationwide movement to ban LGBTQ-themed library books

The Department of Education launched the investigation into the district on 6 December, following a July complaint by the the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLCU). 

It follows an investigation, first reported by NBC News, ProPublica and The Texas Tribune, that revealed Granbury’s Independent School District superintendent, Jeremy Glenn, had reportedly called for librarians to remove books dealing with sexual orientation and people who are trans.

‘There’s no place for it in our libraries’

According to a leaked recording of the meeting, Glenn said: “I acknowledge that there are men that think they’re women and there are women that think they’re men. 

“I don’t have any issues with what people want to believe, but there’s no place for it in our libraries.”

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ACLU attorney, Chloe Kempf, said the investigation shows the Education Department is concerned about an increase in anti-LGBTQ+ policies and book removals nationally. 

“In this case it was made very clear, because the superintendent kind of said the quiet part out loud,” Kempf said. 

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“It’s pretty clear that that kind of motivation is animating a lot of these policies nationwide.”

The Education Department confirmed: “The Office for Civil Rights can confirm that there is an open investigation into Granbury ISD under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.”

Title IX prohibits sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation and gender identity) discrimination in any education program or activity that receives federal finances.

W Scott Lewis, managing partner at TNG, a consulting firm that advises school districts on complying with federal civil rights laws, said: “It’s certainly the first investigation I’ve seen by the agency testing that argument in this way.”

In March, when the investigation was published, the district said all students are valued and important, and it supports students of all backgrounds.

The statement confirmed the district was aware of Glenn’s comments. It went on to claim it had made effort to comply with a request from governor Gregg Abbott that pornographic and sexually explicit books should be removed from public school libraries. 

“The committee determined that eight books from the district’s libraries were sexually explicit and not age-appropriate.

“Two of the eight books did have LGBTQ+ themes, however all of the books that were removed had sexually explicit and/or pervasively vulgar content,” the statement said.

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It comes after more than 300 people in Orange City, lowa, signed a petition to demand the local library get rid of any books with LGBTQ+ themes.  

Genderqueer author Maia Kobabe said it’s “really dangerous and unfair” to ban young people from accessing books with information about LGBTQ+ issues and sex.

According PEN America, a free speech and literary organisation, from July 2021 to June 2022, there have been 2,532 instances of individual books being banned, affecting 1,648 unique book titles.

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