Katy ISD pulls book from junior high, high school libraries

By Rose-Ann Aragon - Reporter

KATY, Texas - A New York Times No. 1 best-selling book is now being taken off the shelves in Katy ISD schools.

"The Hate U Give," by Angie Thomas, is a topic of discussion on Twitter and among students.

The controversial book was pulled from shelves by the Katy ISD school board after a parent brought its content and language to the attention of Katy ISD's board. Students then took to Twitter to voice their concern about not being allowed to read material regarding police brutality and racial inequality, both of which were mentioned in the book.

The Katy school district made a statement saying the book was not banned -- students can still read, buy and bring the book to school -- but it is pulled from the junior high and high school libraries.

In a Nov. 6 Katy ISD board of trustees meeting, parent Anthony Downs expressed his concern.

"I had a child that just came to me in the junior high this weekend, with a book, and said, 'I don't think I should be reading this book.' It was checked out of the library of this school," said Downs. "I read 13 pages, and I was appalled."

Downs read excerpts to the board.

"'The f-word,' and I will not repeat that here, but it is spelled out here in the book. 'I wish he wasn't ... busy,'" read Downs. "I stopped at Page 13 of 454. My question to this board is, 'Who reviews the books that go into this junior high school?'"

The district said the book contained swear words and racial slurs. Officials said the book was removed not because of its content but solely because of its language.

Katy ISD Superintendent Lance Hindt sent this statement:

"As you are aware, the book 'The Hate U Give' was recently removed from the libraries at Katy ISD while an administrative review process is conducted. This decision was made after profane language in the book was brought to the District’s attention.

"Katy ISD has a formal process and policy whereby books are reviewed for inclusion in our instructional resources. The District strictly adheres to this policy when reviewing library material in order to follow policy and protect students' First Amendment rights. To this end, consistent with the First Amendment, the District makes no judgment based on viewpoint when its committees meet to consider library materials. However, in accordance with U.S. Supreme Court rulings and Board Policy EF (Legal), the district does reserve the right to remove any book or material which is 'pervasively vulgar or based solely upon the educational suitability of the books in question.' A review of the book in question shows it to include pervasive vulgarity and racially insensitive language. As such, the book has been removed pending further review based solely on its pervasive vulgarity and not its substantive content or the viewpoint expressed. Contrary to many reports, the book has not been banned. Again, it has been removed consistent with existing policy while an administrative review process is underway."

Students in favor for the book to be put back on shelves, made petitions.

Parents said the book had educational value.

"I think (removing the book) deprives (students) of a different kind of experience that they probably will never know in their own lives, and I think it's enlightening," said Dianne Neil, who has two grandchildren at the junior high. "I think parents are overly sensitive about children knowing about what's going on in the world. I think they need to know what other people are experiencing -- other kids are experiencing. I think that's very important."

Other parents said the language in the books could raise some issues.

"I don't have an issue with what (the book talks) about ... I want that out there with kids, but I do have an issue with cussing and things like that," said Ashley Simmons, the mother of a sixth-grade student. "We're raising a generation of kids ... I want them to be mature and not saying inappropriate things."

The district said any parent has a right to challenge a book. Right now, the district is creating a committee to review the book further. That committee will decide ultimately whether this book stays or goes.

Meanwhile, the Mississippi-based writer praised the students making the petition, tweeting, "I swear, teens give me hope for the future. So many thanks to all of the teens in Katy ISD who are speaking up and speaking out..."

The book was a 2017 Boston Globe Horn Book Award winner, and is set to be made into a movie.

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