Support the Freedom to Read!

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Support the Freedom to Read!2024-02-19T14:35:52-06:00

Book Bans Have No Place in Texas

Texas students deserve access to books that reflect their own lives, teach them about others’ lives, and inspire them to lead.   

But some Texas politicians have promoted book ban efforts that target LGBTQ+, Black, and other marginalized students — on books that save lives.  

Book bans have deep roots in the United States, from bans on anti-slavery writings in the early 1800s to McCarthy-era bans on “subversive” materials, such as LGBTQ+ works. Today, Texas districts have banned hundreds of books in the past two years. The banned books range from children’s picture books to young adult fiction to nonfiction texts. Most discuss race and racism, feature LGBTQ+ characters, or explore themes related to student health and well-being. In 2023, the Texas legislature fanned the flames of book bans by passing House Bill 900 (HB 900).

As of January 17, 2024, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has found that key parts of HB 900 are likely unconstitutional. This decision means that the HB 900 book ratings regime imposed on booksellers cannot be enforced at this time. Learn more about what this decision means for you and your school.

Read Our Letter to School Districts

HB 900 Guide

Although most of HB 900 has been blocked by the courts for now, the chilling effect of this dangerous bill still threatens students’ freedom to read, increases state surveillance of school libraries, and ultimately disempowers parents and students from making decisions for their own families. Educators, students, and families can work together to provide a diverse and engaging reading collection for all students. 

Click the buttons below to find more resources and take action! Whether you’re a student, parent, educator, or community member, there’s a role for you in this fight! 

Student Advocacy Guide

FReadom Resources

NOTE:

The information provided is intended to convey general information only and not to provide legal advice or opinions. Information shared on this page and in any documents linked on this page should not be construed as or be relied upon as legal advice in any particular circumstance or factual situation. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments. An attorney should be contacted for advice on specific legal questions, issues and/or interpretation of the law.

HB 900: The Book Ban Bill

BookPeople v Wong

A coalition of Texas booksellers and national associations have filed a lawsuit against HB 900 because it violates their freedom of speech and is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. Bookstores including BookPeople and Blue Willow Bookshop won a victory in September when U.S. District Judge Alan Albright found it likely that “this law violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment” and ordered a preliminary injunction that blocks most of the law from being enforced. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed this decision on January 17, 2024. Because of these court decisions, enforcement of key parts of HB 900 are blocked at this time on the grounds that they are likely unconstitutional.

For more information on this lawsuit, see here, and follow us for future updates!

House Bill 900 (HB 900), authored by Representative Jared Patterson (R-Frisco), is the latest extremist attempt to ban books in Texas. HB 900 threatens students’ freedom to read by creating a bureaucratic book rating system, increasing state surveillance of school libraries, and taking decisions around what to read away from parents and students.  

**As of January 17, 2024, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has found that key parts of HB 900 are likely unconstitutional. This decision means that the HB 900 book ratings regime imposed on booksellers cannot be enforced at this time.**

This guide is designed for librarians and educators to navigate this new legislation and protect students’ rights. It can also help students and parents to advocate for the freedom to read in your school district.

To understand this new legislation, the court’s preliminary injunction that blocks vendor book ratings, and what it all means for schools, click the toggles below.

You can find further guidance from the Texas Library Association and the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

A black book in dark green chains. The chains are breaking open.

Book Ratings

HB 900 tried to force book vendors to rate all books they sell to school districts based on their content. Under this book rating regime, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) would have had final authority over approving ratings.

Both the District Court and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that the book ratings regime is likely unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment. This decision means that the book ratings are blocked from enforcement at this time.

The District Court also found that the definitions of “sexually explicit” and “sexually relevant” included in HB 900 are likely “unconstitutionally vague…because they are created out of whole cloth by the Legislature, are confusing, and have no basis in existing law.”

School districts, teachers, and librarians have never been required to rate books under HB 900, and they are not responsible for book ratings now that most of HB 900 has been blocked by the courts. Schools can continue to purchase books from vendors using your existing procedures. 

It is important to note that the court has found that the rating definitions in HB 900 are likely unconstitutional. Therefore, districts should also avoid using these definitions in local policy or practice. 

Teachers and librarians should continue to work with parents and students to find books that are relevant and engaging for each student.

A black book in dark green chains. The chains are breaking open.

Library Standards

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) must develop mandatory library collection standards for school libraries, with State Board of Education (SBOE) approval.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has said that the adoption of the library collection standards may proceed at this time.

School districts must adopt the standards adopted by TSLAC in December 2023. You can find the adopted standards here, and additional guidance from TSLAC here.

School districts should note that two provisions of the new library collection standards reference the library material vendor ratings that are currently blocked. According to TSLAC, these two provisions “are effectively inoperative at this time.” School districts are not required to rate books and should not attempt to do so.

The standards affirm that books cannot be removed “based solely on the ideas contained in the material or the personal background of the author of the material or characters in the material.” They also provide ample opportunity for all stakeholders – including students – to provide feedback on library collections, while affirming the importance of trained library staff, educators, and authoritative reviews to evaluate the full context and educational suitability of a book.

However, some provisions of the new library collection standards threaten the freedom to read. For example, the policy must recognize parents as the primary decision-makers of students’ access to library materials. This threatens students’ autonomy – especially if they live in unsupportive or abusive homes. Parent and student advocates must continue to push for the freedom to read for all students.

The Chilling Effect of HB 900 Across Texas

A screenshot of a map of Texas highlighting the school districts and counties that have banned books as part of the chilling effect of HB 900. The map image links back to the interactive map.

Click through on the map to explore the full interactive version.

NOTE:

HB 900 does not outright ban LGBTQ+ books or books about sexual abuse—in fact, Rep. Patterson stated that this is not the intent of the bill. But as advocates, we know that language like “sexually relevant” is too often used to justify banning books with LGBTQ+ characters or stories about sexual abuse. Students deserve to read stories that relate to their lives, remind them that they are not alone, and give them the tools and language to ask for support. Librarians and educators should not remove books based solely on the ideas contained in the material, the personal background of the author, or the personal background of the characters. Read more.

Fight for the Freedom to Read

Young person with their head in a book

For Students 

Your school board trustees represent you – even if you can’t vote yet. Call, email, or give testimony during public school board meetings.  

Connect with Students Engaged in Advancing Texas (SEAT) to organize with other students fighting against book bans and advocating for students to have a SEAT at the policymaking table.

Book bans in school libraries restrict vital resources for all students, especially those who lack supportive families, digital access to online resources, or financial resources to purchase books. But if you have access, institutions like the Brooklyn Public Librarythe Seattle Public Library, and the Digital Public Access Library of America all offer free library cards that allow you to read e-books. Some age and location restrictions apply.

Let adults in your life know why these books matter to you, share the resources in the For Parents tab below, and encourage them to vote in key elections that influence what happens in schools and libraries. 

Use this interview between the ACLU and the high school founder of the Vandegrift Banned Books Club in Leander ISD to help you get started. 

Person holding a book and a piece of chalk

For Educators  

Follow the American Library Association to report censorship, track book ban data, and get support for facing book challenges including guidance, legal aid, and financial support. Organizations like PEN America, EveryLibrary, and CDF-Texas can also support you if you’re facing censorship or attempted book bans in your school. 

Check out this handbook from the National Coalition Against Censorship and the National Council of Teachers of English. It includes guidance for developing instructional material policies and for navigating book challenges. 

This is a great way to share literature with families and create bonds between educators and the community through reading! 

Laws like HB 900 often have unintended consequences because they are confusing and fuel the flames of book bans. The best defense against misinformation is reading the bill language and following trusted organizations like CDF-Texas and our partners at Freadom Fighters, ACLU-TX, or Texas Freedom Network. In combination with your schools library policies, this helps ensure you feel confident in all the educational decisions you make! 

For Parents 

School board elections have a tremendous impact on your child’s educational experience, but they typically have low voter turnout. Keep track of what’s going on with your school board to make sure your local elected officials represent you and your student’s needs.

The more parents we have fighting against book bans, the more responsive school officials and elected leaders will be. Use your power as a parent to advocate in your community. Connect with the Texas Freedom to Read Project, and check out Unite Against Book Bans, FReadom Fighters, and GLAAD for candidate questionnaires, templates for speaking at school board meetings, guidance to creating community groups, and more!

Our friends at the Texas Freedom to Read Project are sharing the latest research on why the freedom to read matters. Get the facts on how inclusive, representative, and culturally relevant books lead to higher reading scores, improved mental health, and stronger relationships with family and peers.

Let them know you support their freedom to read and encourage them to check out the student section for ways they can speak up alongside you! 

Person holding a book in front of library shelves

For Community Members 

Everyone has the right to speak up to your school board members and state representatives to urge them to support the freedom to read. You can track statewide legislation with EveryLibrary and join their Fight for the First campaign for support with community organizing.

Book bans have occurred all across the state of Texas and your district may be affected. Find out if your district is banning books with PEN America’s index.  

Help young people in your community start their own Banned Book Club with this guide from Book Riot. Not sure what to read? You can start with the Banned Books We Love.

Fight for the Freedom to Learn

Young person with their head in a book

For Students 

Your school board trustees represent you – even if you can’t vote yet. Call, email, or give testimony during public school board meetings.  

Let adults in your life know why these books matter to you and encourage them to vote in key elections that influence what happens in schools and libraries. 

Use this interview between the ACLU and the high school founder of the Vandegrift Banned Books Club in Leander ISD to help you get started. 

Connect with Students Engaged in Advancing Texas (SEAT) to organize with other students fighting against book bans and advocating for students to have a SEAT at the policymaking table.

Book bans in school libraries restrict vital resources for all students, especially those who lack supportive families, digital access to online resources, or financial resources to purchase books. But if you have access, institutions like the Brooklyn Public Librarythe Seattle Public Library, and the Digital Public Access Library of America all offer free library cards that allow you to read e-books. Some age and location restrictions apply.

Person holding a book and a piece of chalk

For Educators

Follow the American Library Association to report censorship, track book ban data, and get support for facing book challenges including guidance, legal aid, and financial support. Organizations like PEN America, EveryLibrary, and CDF-Texas can also support you if you’re facing censorship or attempted book bans in your school. 

Check out this handbook from the National Coalition Against Censorship and the National Council of Teachers of English. It includes guidance for developing instructional material policies and for navigating book challenges. 

This is a great way to share literature with families and create bonds between educators and the community through reading! 

Laws like HB 900 often have unintended consequences because they are confusing and implemented impractically. The best defense against misinformation is reading the bill language and following trusted organizations like CDF-Texas and our partners at Freadom Fighters, ACLU-TX, or Texas Freedom Network. In combination with your schools library policies, this helps ensure you feel confident in all the educational decisions you make! 

For Parents

School board elections have a tremendous impact on your child’s educational experience, but they typically have low voter turnout. Keep track of what’s going on with your school board to make sure your local elected officials represent you and your student’s needs.

The more parents we have fighting against book bans, the more responsive school officials and elected leaders will be. Use your power as a parent to advocate in your community.Check out Unite Against Book Bans, FReadom Fighters, and GLAAD for candidate questionnaires, templates for speaking at school board meetings, guidance to creating community groups, and more!

Let them know you support their freedom to read and encourage them to check out the student section for ways they can speak up alongside you! 

Person holding a book in front of library shelves

For Community Members

Everyone has the right to speak up to your school board members and state representatives to urge them to support the freedom to read. You can track statewide legislation with EveryLibrary and join their Fight for the First campaign for support with community organizing.

Book bans have occurred all across the state of Texas and your district may be affected. Find out if your district is banning books with PEN America’s index.  

Help young people in your community start their own Banned Book Club with this guide from Book Riot. Not sure what to read? You can start with the Banned Books We Love.

You are leaving the CDF-TX site and being redirected to the National Children's Defense Fund website.