What one group calls keeping kids from seeing offensive things is what another group calls control. On February 28, the League City City Council passed an ordinance that makes a new committee reviewing books people flag as possibly harmful or offensive at Helen Hall Library.
During the weeks before the vote, many people were against the choice. Many people said the Community Standards Review Committee was trying to keep LGBTQ-themed books out of libraries. Katherine Swanson was one of about 20 people who protested outside the League City City Council chambers on February 28. She was the spokesperson for the Galveston County Library Alliance, a grass-roots group that was formed in response to the law. Members of the Alliance said they are considering going to court or finding other ways to fight the rule.
Swanson said at the protest, “We’re upset about what City Council is trying to do. We think it’s government overreach and that it’s becoming big government, and we don’t like that.”
Council Member Justin Hicks, who brought the law to the council, said that it is not a ban on books but a way to protect kids. He also said that the Clear Creek ISD board of trustees passed a policy about school libraries that was even stricter than the law that council passed. Hicks said, “It’s about se*ual topics and bad language.”
Hicks’ idea for a new group started in the fall of 2021 when he heard from people who didn’t like certain books in the library. In an email to John Baumgartner, City Manager, sent in November 2021, Hicks asked that one of the books, “Se* is a Funny Word,” be taken out of the library because it was “indoctrinating and smut.”
Hicks said he tried to talk to the board of trustees at the Helen Hall Library about his worries, but he was “kind of blown off.” He told residents to fill out a packet so that the board could officially think about reshelving or getting rid of the books in question. Hicks said that when residents did this, they got no answer. He said, “I don’t know where the ball got dropped.”
According to community impact, Kyrsten Garcia, who is the secretary of the Helen Hall Library board, said that Hicks thought the books in question would be banned at his request, even though the board already had an official way to decide what to do about books like these. “That’s not what he wanted to hear,” said Garcia.
She also said that there is “no evidence” that people sent in book complaints that were not answered. In November 2021, the board looked at a request to take “Se* is a Funny Word” out of the library and decided to move it from the children’s area to the parenting section. In April 2022, the board looked at “Gender Queer,” another controversial book, and moved it from the section for teens to the part for adults.
In the end, Hicks chose to bring a resolution to the city council that says the city can’t spend tax money on “obscene” library materials for kids. The resolution passed on December 6 says that pedophilia, incest, r@pe, bondage, se*, nudity, and se*ual choice in books for people younger than ten years old are all obscene.
“Gender ideology” and “ideologue human se*uality” were on the list of offensive topics at first, but they were taken off before the list was approved. Many people in the area were against this motion because they thought it would stop kids from reading books about LGBTQ topics. The fight about the council’s vote on the new book review committee in February kept going.
Jay Cunningham, the president of the CCISD board of trustees, said that the board decided unanimously in late February for a new policy that will let parents challenge school library books, just like League City’s policy does. Cunningham said that some books will be kept out of reach of elementary children and will only be available with permission from a parent.
Cunningham said that the district hasn’t gotten any complaints about this move. This is likely because school libraries aren’t open to the public like public libraries are. “I would say that’s the main difference,” Cunningham said. “The public library is just that: it’s for the public.”
On the other hand, Swanson said that the alliance is against the new CCISD policy and that members would have protested the choice if they had known about it. We have news about Bee Cave Remains Texas Seventh Dark Sky Community.
A New Group
Swanson and many others who spoke out against the ordinance said that the decision showed that the new committee’s goal is to help people ban books with LGBTQ themes. Swanson agreed that the resolution passed was better than the first suggested.
She said, “But it’s still a book ban,” because putting books back where they belong for their intended audience is a kind of control. “It’s a problem.”
Hicks didn’t like the idea of a “book ban.” “We haven’t put any books off limits in League City. He said, “Not one.” “That was not what I had in mind,” Hicks said. The motion didn’t have anything to do with LGBTQ books. He said he would feel the same way about the books if they talked about se* between straight people.
“Everyone has a place and a time to learn all of that,” Hicks said. The Texas Library Association, which helps public, school, and academic libraries nationwide, also doesn’t agree with League City’s choice. Even though people’s reactions to controversial books are “understandable,” League City’s new group is a step too far, the association’s executive director, Shirley Robinson, said. She said, “I think what happened in League City is a case of the city government going too far.”
Swanson said that if this new group moves some books to the adult section, she will have to go into the adult section with her child to find the books she wants to check out for them. This will expose her child to adult books she doesn’t want them to see. She said, “I don’t think the council sees the irony in that.”
Not every council member agreed with the law. Chad Tressler, John Bowen, and Tom Crews all voted against it when they were on the council. Bowen said that the new committee is “wrong on so many levels” because the government shouldn’t make choices that parents should make. Tressler said that the ordinance was still aimed at LGBTQ people, even though the language of the motion had changed.
“That’s not right,” he said at the meeting on February 28. “Getting rid of that language doesn’t change the fact that that was the point.” Some of the trustees of the Helen Hall Library also don’t like the new group.
“It’s not needed, and it shouldn’t have been made in the first place,” said Garcia, pointing out that the board has been reviewing books for years according to the standards of the American Library Association. “At no point did council come to talk to the board.” Swanson and other alliance members are applying to be on the group, but she said she doesn’t know when the deadline for applications is.
People who don’t like the motion and ordinance have said they will sue. A few people who spoke out against the new group at council meetings said it would lead to expensive lawsuits for the city. You must know about Texas Bitcoin Miners Benefit Limitation Bill Passes Committee Unanimously.
Swanson said, “We are still looking for ways to fight the law.” “I do know that many people in the community are still looking for ways to help, and a lawsuit may be one of those ways.”
The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Texas sent a letter to the council on February 14 to say that they did not agree with the law. When it passed, the ACLU of Texas wrote, “We’ll keep an eye on what happens next to protect our rights.” Hicks, on the other hand, said that everything the council has done has been in line with state law.
Robinson said that the Texas Library Association is keeping an eye on 37 bills in the Texas Legislature that could change the way libraries work. She said that about a dozen of them would let libraries be charged with crimes because of the books in their collections. So, Robinson said, “That’s scary.”