A book with redacted sections
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Conservative Book Banners Are Redacting Entire Textbook Chapters in Texas Schools

In Texas, conservative book banners have succeeded in censoring science textbooks in one of the biggest school districts in the state.

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Texas is right behind Florida as one of the top states leading the book-banning movement. The state has fought hard to pass House Bill 900, a law requiring booksellers to review and issue ratings to every book in their collection, deeming them either appropriate or inappropriate per state guidelines, before selling to school libraries. The bill quickly faced a temporary injunction, with a judge ruling that the law very likely violated constitutional rights. However, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals successfully blocked the judge’s ruling, allowing the bill to go back into effect temporarily in late 2023 and causing book bans to skyrocket further. Although the federal appeals later upheld the judge’s ruling and blocked the law again, the state is looking to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Even without the law, school districts across Texas have banned and removed hundreds of books from schools. Recently, PEN America compiled a list of 623 titles banned in Texas schools during the 2022-2023 school year. The list included many of the most commonly challenged books, like Gender Queer, Lawn Boy, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. However, some titles that made the list were quite surprising, such as Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays by Stephen Hawking, biographies of Martin Luther King Jr. and Eleanor Roosevelt, and J. R. R. Tolkien’s entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. This list demonstrates that Texas isn’t even trying to pretend that it’s solely targeting books that are “sexually explicit,” as it openly goes after science and history titles.

Now the state is taking things further as the censorship extends to actual school-assigned textbooks.

Texas school district votes to censor science textbooks

Recently, the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District (Cy-Fair ISD) trustees voted almost unanimously to censor textbooks in schools. The vote was held on May 6, as trustees evaluated a proposal to remove certain chapters in science textbooks. The board members took issue with chapters that dealt with topics including “climate change, vaccination, cultural diversity, depopulation and humans’ impact on the Earth and its ecosystems.” They argued that the topics were “controversial” and could not be taught to students.

Ultimately, the board approved removing a total of 13 chapters across five science books used in biology, environmental science, earth systems, and health science classes. The removal will go into effect for the 2024 – 2025 school year. Only one trustee out of six, Julie Hinaman, voted against the censorship. She questioned why the board suddenly decided it had the right to “override the recommendation of our highly trained educators who selected these materials for next school year.” Each of the five textbooks in question had been approved by the Texas State Board of Education with no restrictions, making it unclear why the Cy-Fair ISD trustees are even voting on materials that were already explicitly approved for students.

On top of that, the district is in the midst of a budget crisis. In fact, the May 6 meeting was supposed to be about the district’s $138 million budget shortfall before it shifted to book banning. In response to the crisis, the school is significantly reducing its staff. The district’s financial standing is relevant to the book censorship vote because it means some teachers now have significant holes in their curriculums, as entire chapters in their textbooks were stripped away. So, despite a labor shortage, many teachers must now take on additional work to find something to teach that the trustees won’t deem “controversial.”

Duncan Klussmann, a former superintendent for Spring Branch ISD, commented to Houston Public Media that the trustees approved the censorship in a very odd way. As mentioned above, the meeting was supposed to be about budgets, with the censorship vote being tacked on to the very end of the meeting, much to attendees’ surprise. By the time the vote was held, most members of the public had left the meeting, and not a single community member spoke about the proposal or voted. Klussmann confirmed he had “questions around the whole transparency of it.” It’s unclear if the public was even privy to the proposal or offered the chance to voice their opposition.

Democratic State Rep. Jon Rosenthal slammed the trustees’ decision, pointing out that the district is putting children interested in the STEM fields at a tremendous disadvantage by blocking them from learning and understanding fundamental topics in modern science and the medical profession. Indeed, the CY-Fair ISD’s decision is deeply disturbing. As mentioned above, book banners constantly try to excuse their actions by claiming they’re removing “pornography” from schools. Now, as book bans continue gaining traction, conservatives are getting bolder, to the point of abruptly redacting entire chapters from textbooks simply because a few trustees disagree with some scientific concepts.

For anyone still repeating the vague excuse that they’re protecting children by removing sexually explicit books from schools, this is solid proof that the goal of conservative book banners has always been solely to ensure that their narrow view of the world, history, and science becomes the only view shared with children, so they have no choice but to accept it.


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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.