\r\nThe Texas Education Agency released statewide standards Monday for how school districts should remove and prevent \u201cobscene content\u201d from entering Texas public school libraries.\r\nIn the agency\u2019s model policy, there is an emphasis that parents should have a role in how books are selected. The agency says that districts should make new selections readily available for parents to review. School librarians or staff should be \u201cencouraged\u201d to ask parents what their children can and cannot read.\r\nThe new guidelines suggest that school boards have final approval of all new books and that a committee should be put in place to review books if parents file a formal \u201crequest for reconsideration.\u201d\r\nTo avoid \u201cobscene\u201d content in libraries, the agency reminded school districts that state law spells out that handing out inappropriate materials to minors is a crime. Texas librarians, school administrators and public education advocates have denied allegations that there are \u201cinappropriate\u201d or \u201cpornographic\u201d materials in school libraries or that they\u2019re handing out such content.\r\nThe standards are to be used as guidance for school district officials as they develop new procedures or alter their policies for selecting or removing library books. School districts, which are largely independent governmental entities and run by locally elected trustees, are not required to adopt the agency\u2019s recommendations.\r\nThe TEA\u2019s new standards come about five months after Gov. Greg Abbott directed that agency, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and State Board of Education to develop such guidelines. In his directive, Abbott cited two memoirs about LGBTQ characters, which include graphic images and descriptions of sex, that were found in some Texas school libraries.\r\n\u201cThere have been several instances recently of inappropriate materials being found in school libraries,\u201d TEA commissioner Mike Morath said Monday in a letter to Abbott. \u201cThis model local school board policy will serve as a helpful guide to school boards as they create the policies for their school district libraries.\u201d\r\nIn his letter Monday, Morath said that his agency worked with the state\u2019s library and archives commission and the SBOE chair to develop the guidelines.\r\nAs most school districts have existing policies for how books are selected or removed, it was not immediately clear Monday how this guidance will affect individual school libraries.\r\nShannon Holmes, executive director of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, warned school district officials to be wary of what policies they decide to adopt. Holmes said they should listen to their communities and not to be taken away by the politics surrounding the situation.\r\n\u201cAs we have said since these latest book controversies began, elected school boards have for decades had the means to work with educators and parents to determine what library content meets the needs of their local communities,\u201d Holmes said.\r\nBarry Perez, spokesperson for the San Antonio area\u2019s Northside Independent School District, the state\u2019s fourth-largest district, said officials there don\u2019t yet know if the guidance will affect them. But he said the district already has long-standing protocols to deal with concerns about books or any instructional materials.\r\n\u201cWe will continue to follow these protocols and address any specific concerns on a case by case basis and with thoughtful consideration of students\u2019 interests, age, maturity, and reading skills level,\u201d Perez said in a statement.\r\nThe TEA was directed to create such standards after parents around the state caught Abbott\u2019s attention as they called for certain books with depictions of sex to be removed from school libraries. As Abbott seeks a third term in office, he has made parental rights in education a priority issue \u2014 promising a \u201cparental bill of rights\u201d amendment to the Texas Constitution even though parents already have a myriad of rights when it comes to their children\u2019s education.\r\nThose include \u201cGender Queer: A Memoir,\u201d by Maia Kobabe, which depicts the author\u2019s journey of discovering their gender identity and sexual orientation. It includes a few pages of explicit illustrations depicting oral sex.\r\nAnother book challenged and removed was \u201cOut of Darkness\u201d by Ashley Hope P\u00e9rez, which depicts racism in a Texas town but also makes reference to anal sex.\r\nWhile these books were being challenged and debated in school board meetings during the fall, state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, sent a list to school districts in October of some 850 books \u2014 including Kobabe\u2019s \u2014 asking for information about how many are available on their campuses.\r\nKrause\u2019s list includes several books that discuss race, sexuality and puberty. Most were written by women, people of color and LGBTQ authors.\r\nThis article originally appeared in the Texas Tribune at texastribune.org\/2022\/04\/11\/texas-school-library-standards.