Humble ISD parents can already restrict what books their kids check out. Some want to take it further

Some Kingwood parents are demanding what they call “pervasively vulgar and obscene” books be removed from Humble ISD libraries, challenging current district policy that allows students to check out controversial books with their parent’s permission.

“If the book is bad enough to require it to be labeled as mature content due to the sexually explicit nature of the book, then it should be removed entirely,” Tracy Shannon said Tuesday at the district’s school board meeting.

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Shannon was among three parents who presented their concerns to the board, adding that they already have a working list of what they called 30 “dirty books” and plan to go through hundreds of others they plan to challenge.

Humble ISD Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen said the policy is designed to allow parental input.

“Humble ISD aspires to provide a personalized education for every single child in partnership with their families,” Fagan said. “When a family comes to us and has a concern about a material or an item, we want to make sure that we can come to a compromise remedy that makes that family feel comfortable with what we’re doing.” 

Humble joins other districts across the state dealing with book ban requests. Several Houston area districts such as Katy, Fort Bend, and Cy-Fair have developed policies in response to calls for the review and removal of books containing topics such as sexuality, LGBTQ+ subjects and critical race theory. 

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In a news release, Shannon claims Humble ISD’s process – involving a form to request the reconsideration of instructional materials – is designed to wear parents down. 

“Some of us have started the reconsideration process, which is currently very arduous, and does not really result in what we want, which is to remove these books completely from these libraries, because they have no redeeming educational value,” she told board members during public comment.

With a child in the board room at the time, Shannon stopped short of reading aloud some of the more explicit excerpts they provided board members.

“Our taxpayers do not want to be complicit in the corruption of minors,” she said.

“We have every faith and confidence that our district will do the right thing and take the lead on getting these books out. Currently, the process right now safeguards books, not children, and we’d like to safeguard children instead,” she said.

Meagan Fast said she had begun the process to have one of about 40 books removed from the Kingwood High School library.

“I went through the process with the reconsideration form. I read the book front to back, I met with a committee, they decided to keep the book on the shelf,” Fast said. “They said (it was) restricted but in my opinion from the language, it wasn’t really restricted, because it still allowed the child access from the bookshelves without parent involvement.”

She appealed and ultimately, the decision was made to lock the book up in a room and accessible only with written parental permission.

She used her remaining time to read excerpts from “The Bluest Eye,” in which she had concerns about the book describing the rape and molestation of a young girl by her father.

Fagan said the district offers alternative resources or materials for children whose families request them.

“We do have a review process for library books and sometimes the committee doesn’t feel that the book should be removed for every child, but we always partner with that family. Absolutely, your child cannot check out that book if it’s not OK with you. And we’ve even added some safeguards to that,” she told parents and the board.

Every parent has an account in the Home Access Center, an online portal that allows them to track information such as grades, attendance, and library books checked out by their child, according to Jamie Mount, chief communications officer for Humble ISD. 

“Making a decision to remove something for every single high school student is a decision that no one takes lightly,” Mount said. “But we want to make sure every family feels secure and safe in what their children are doing and what they’re reading.”

dtaylor@hcnonline.com

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