Both of Shulamith Armintor’s parents are English teachers and she grew up around books. But one morning the 14-year-old said she was getting ready for school when her mother, Denton City Council member Deb Armintor, told her about the growing efforts to remove some titles from the shelves of the school.
In October, State Rep. Matt Krause, a Republican from Fort Worth, demanded that school districts report whether they are offering books from a list of about 850. Many of the books targeted deal with issues related to sexuality and race.
Although young Armintor said she wasn’t too worried at first, she later realized that the booming book buzz had hit her high school. Then she organized herself.
About three weeks ago, Armintor created a petition on Change.org asking Denton ISD to keep inclusive books on school shelves. She also wants the district to expand its selection of queer literature. Such books help high school students learn about diversity and “can guide them in exploring their own identity,” the petition says.
He had received more than 240 signatures by Friday afternoon.
Armintor read some of the titles on Krause’s list, such as In the dream house, which depicts an abusive same-sex relationship. She said she can think of people who experience much of what is mentioned in the targeted books.
“Why would they think it wouldn’t be OK for high school kids?” said the ninth grader. “Because that’s the experience a lot of high school kids have.”
In recent months, some Republican politicians in Texas have tightened restrictions on what can be taught in public schools. The decision to ban critical race theory extended from public schools from K-12 to the university level, with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Friday announcing a crackdown on the academic framework in colleges.
Free speech advocates are sounding the alarm a rise in “soft censorship”, described by the School library journal as a “silent banishment that often comes without explanation”. Some warn that minority views are also being stifled in states like Tennessee, which has been the house of a burning literal book earlier this year.
One of the books on Krause’s list made some serious waves, largely because it featured an illustrated depiction of a sex scene. The graphic novel Gender Queer: A Memoir by non-binary author Maia Kobabe has been held up by some concerned parents as a reason for tighter restrictions on school libraries. Governor Greg Abbott ‘questioned the book’ The Texas Grandstand reported in November, and other titles he considered “pornographic”.
But Armintor said she had read the book and it “sounded a really big chord” with her; she loved reading about Kobabe’s personal discovery. Armintor knows others who are going through similar experiences, and reading this book would help them know they are not alone, she said.
“Whether they like it or not, a lot of teenagers… experience this kind of thing on a daily basis.” – Shulamith Armintor, Denton ISD student
Critics have argued that teens need to be protected from viewing nudity and sex scenes, such as those in Gender Queer. But Armintor said those naysayers are acting like “they’ve never met a teenager in their life.”
“Whether they like it or not, a lot of teenagers do or go through this stuff on a daily basis,” she said. “They don’t protect [teens] of these ideas; they don’t give them advice, and they leave them in the cold saying, ‘We’re not going to support you. You will have no way of knowing what to do in this situation.
Denton ISD Superintendent Jamie Wilson said in November that the district wouldn’t respond to Krause’s requestaccording to Denton Record-Chronicle. Still, the staff released a book for review late last year.
Denton ISD did not respond to the Observerrequest for comment per posting time, possibly due to a school holiday period. But spokeswoman Julie Zwahr told the Record-Chronicle in December that even though no one had challenged the book, titled Not all boys are blueit was removed after authorities discovered it had been reviewed by neighboring districts.
Talk with BNC NewsZwahr said only one official book challenge has been submitted this school year, but 11 titles are being reviewed to see if they’re “pervasively vulgar.” Meanwhile, in Granbury, men were recently photographed carry boxes of books labeled “Krause’s List,” according to NBC.
Such censorship attempts directly affect children’s education, but students are rarely included in book ban discussions, said Wendy Woodland, director of advocacy and communications for the Texas Library Association. Libraries are not a place of “forced learning,” and students should be free to engage in voluntary inquiry by choosing literature that resonates with them, she said.
“No book is going to be right for all students,” Woodland said, “but a book could have a meaningful impact on a student’s life, and those students should be included in the conversation about the material they have access to.”
School boards approve the process to address concerns about inappropriate library books, Woodland said. These protocols must continue to be followed to avoid “hasty decisions being made arbitrarily”.
Many Texas school librarians are upset by the current attack on their work, she continued, but the community should trust them to do their job. Woodland also warned that Texas could continue to see this trend develop.
“Unless we work now to bring about change, we will unfortunately continue to see national and local authorities turn away from educating students, looking for a solution to a problem that simply does not exist.” , she said. “Getting a censorship-free education is vital for Texas students, so it’s imperative that we act to protect students’ First Amendment rights.”