Frisco schools Superintendent Mike Waldrip fought back against a Republican state lawmaker’s aggressive – and public – claims that the district is not doing enough to keep sexually explicit books out of students’ hands.
The district is “unequivocally committed to ensuring our libraries do not contain sexually inappropriate materials,” Waldrip wrote in a message to parents and staff Thursday afternoon.
Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, has frequently posted on social media, suggesting the district is minimizing the issue, Waldrip wrote. But school officials took appropriate immediate action when books were identified as problematic and worked to revamp local policies to ensure in materials don’t become available, he stressed.
District staff and board members met with Patterson in February to discuss the lawmaker’s concerns and the role of vendors in book selections. Patterson has since urged districts to sign a pledge that they wouldn’t knowingly partner with, purchase from or associate with a vendor that has supplied pornographic materials to schools.
Frisco leaders responded that it was not district practice to sign “non-binding pledges drafted by third parties,” Waldrip wrote, noting that it isn’t feasible for a school district to evaluate the entire sales history of a vendor before making a purchase from them.
“Instead of working collaboratively with the district to find real solutions to this problem, Representative Patterson posted on social media,” Waldrip wrote.
But Patterson said Thursday evening that the Frisco superintendent is the only district chief in the area he represents who has refused to meet with the lawmaker on the issue.
“In [Waldrip’s] limited public comments, he has shown more aggression toward me than he has toward rooting out sexually explicit books from his schools,” Patterson said. “I will not stop pursuing accountability for book vendors nor will I stop fighting for policy changes at the district level.”
Patterson has routinely tweeted at the district with complaints about how it handles inappropriate material, even naming specific titles he disagreed with.
Since late last year and throughout election season, Republicans have stepped up pressure on schools over the books and materials they offer students. A Texas House member opened an investigation into books largely about race and sexuality in schools. Soon after, Gov. Greg Abbott threw responsibility on school boards to shield students from “inappropriate content.”
Abbott later directed the State Board of Education and Texas’ library and archives commission to develop standards to prevent the presence of “pornography and other obscene content” in schools.
At the February meeting with Frisco officials, Patterson reported a book to district staff as problematic and Frisco officials reviewed the title and removed it immediately, Waldrip wrote. They informed Patterson of the action they took at that time.
But Patterson continues posting about the book even two months after it was removed from Frisco campuses, without acknowledging it was already removed, the superintendent said.
“We are asking our community to please not follow Representative Patterson’s example of reporting books in social media posts and instead share the titles with us directly so we can quickly begin our reconsideration process,” Waldrip said. “With over 1,000,000 titles, it will take more than a year to re-evaluate our collection for compliance with our new guidelines, but the sooner we can remove inappropriate content, the better.”
Frisco leaders plan to bring new library book guidelines and policies to the board in mid-June.
Under current policy, the school district selects new books based on positive reviews from a series of journals. The district’s “best practice” mandates that books considered for purchase must be favorably reviewed in at least one of the approved journals.
If a book hasn’t received a favorable review, it can still be brought onto a campus if a librarian deems it necessary.
The new policy will increase the number of positive reviews required before a book can be selected, explicitly prohibit library materials that contain “obscene material,” and require more individualized reviews by librarians for specific types of books that don’t have reliable professional reviews or are more likely to contain “borderline content.”
The district also will remove a reviewer who previously gave positive reviews to books that have been removed for sexually inappropriate content this past year.
Library staff will implement a weeding schedule for district collections, and librarians will reevaluate books approved under the old guidelines for compliance with new guidelines. The district hired more staff in April to help with this effort.
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