Proposed bills could make it a crime to show children “obscene” or “harmful” materials in class
Some conservative Texas lawmakers want to ban sexually explicit books in school libraries, even as the Biden administration seeks to punish a conservative-leaning Texas school district for removing them.
Last month, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights launched an investigation into Granbury Independent School District (ISD) for removing sexualized content from school libraries. The materials removed included LGBT topics.
The investigation, which is believed to be the first of its kind in Texas, was opened after the Texas ACLU filed a complaint against the district on July 8, 2022. It’s the latest effort by the Biden Administration to prohibit the removal of LGBT materials via the protections afforded under federal anti-discrimination guidelines.
Title IX is the common name used for a federal civil rights law enacted in 1972. It prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools or education-related programs that receive federal funding. The Biden administration says the protections extend to include gender identity and sexual orientation.
Progressive policymakers say removing LGBT materials from K-12 school libraries discriminates against LGBT students, who should be protected under Title IX. Conservative-led states, such as Texas and Florida, have rejected that claim.
To try to take on the problem of “obscene or harmful material or conduct in schools,” Republican legislators in Texas pre-filed eight bills for the 2023 legislative session that began Jan. 10.
Seven bills attack the problem by proposing changes to the Texas Penal Code, which prohibits the “sale, distribution, or display of harmful material” to minors unless there is a “scientific, educational, governmental or other similar” justification.
The proposed bills would eliminate or revise the educational and scientific justification for showing harmful materials to minors, paving the way for misdemeanor charges against school administrators who allow obscene material in schools.
“Harmful material” is defined in Texas law as content with a dominant theme that appeals to the prurient interest of a minor in “sex, nudity, or excretion” and is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community, as a whole, and lacks any redeeming social value for minors.
An eighth Republican-sponsored bill would require publishers to rate violent and sexual content of any books sold to school districts according to age appropriateness.
Rep. Steve Toth, a Republican in Woodlands, Texas, filed HB 111, one of the seven obscenity bills, after battling his local school district over sexually inappropriate books in Conroe ISD, as previously reported in The Epoch Times. He and parents unsuccessfully lobbied for the books to be removed.
Toth told The Epoch Times that Texas would continue to stand up to the Biden administration’s attempt to pressure schools to accept an LGBT agenda, despite investigations and threats of legal action.
“We are going to address it legislatively,” Toth said. Title IX has not changed, he said, just because President Joe Biden says it has.
“The Constitution doesn’t give him the ability to do that. There has been no change in Title IX. There hasn’t been a landmark decision that has gone through the courts.”
The Granbury investigation started when the Texas ACLU filed a complaint based on a secretly recorded meeting between the school district’s librarians and Granbury Superintendent Jeremy Glenn last January.
The organization, which promotes LGBT rights, claimed the Granbury district engaged in anti-LGBT discrimination because its superintendent, Jeremy Glenn, “denied the existence of transgender and non-binary people” in the meeting.
The complaint quoted the superintendent saying, “There are two genders. There’s male, and there’s female. And I acknowledge that there are men who think they’re women and women who think they’re men.”
Science holds that there are two biological sexes—male and female. In rare cases, children are born intersex, with male and female genitalia.
However, progressives promote the idea of a gender continuum, and that intersex births are common. Proponents contend that children and adults can change their gender through hormone use or surgery.
In the 10-minute audio made in January 2022, Glenn told librarians the district was conservative, and school board members don’t want sexually explicit books in school libraries.
The Texas ACLU complaint cited the superintendent as saying “there’s no place for it in our libraries,” referring to materials on becoming transgender. It said Glenn directed district librarians to pull books regarding “transgender, LGBTQ” from Granbury ISD shelves.
However, the ACLU complaint used strategic quotes and left out the full context of what Glenn said, according to the audio recording reviewed by The Epoch Times. The superintendent noted that he didn’t want books in the district’s libraries on “how to become transgender or sex.”
In the recording, Glenn is heard to say, “the transgender, LGBTQ, and the sex—sexuality in books” needed to be pulled from school libraries. Glenn also can be heard telling the librarians that Granbury was “going to be conservative,” regardless of their personal beliefs.
Glenn also refers to a book he says has a “provocative cover,” and tells about a fellow staffer’s apparent embarrassment when she saw him reviewing the book.
“And the point is that a 14-year-old girl doesn’t need to pick up the book in our library and read it,” Glenn is heard on the recording telling librarians in the meeting.
He also commented during the meeting on a title called “This Book is Gay,” targeted for removal from schools by parents in other Texas school districts. The book provides step-by-step instructions on how to have gay sex and use sex apps to find partners.
“I don’t want a kid picking up a book, whether it’s about homosexuality or heterosexuality, and reading about how to hook up sexually in our libraries,” Glenn is heard saying in the recording.
Glenn didn’t respond to requests from The Epoch Times for comment.
The Texas ACLU caused controversy over the summer during a school board training where it presented the Biden administration’s Title IX guidance on transgender and LGBT rights as fact. The ACLU warned districts that those who discriminate against LGBT students could face litigation.
Since then, the Texas ACLU has filed complaints with the U.S. Education Department in several Texas school districts over transgender rights, and now library books.
The organization, which champions progressive positions, filed a complaint against Frisco ISD on Nov. 21, 2022, saying the district’s bathroom policy discriminated against transgender students based on Title IX.
The district’s policy says students should use restrooms based on their biological sex. However, the district employed a loophole in its policy to say transgender students could use the bathroom of their chosen gender, if they ask for and receive “an accommodation.”
Title IX confusion
No definitive case concerning Title IX protections for transgender students has been decided, with courts ruling both for and against the Biden administration’s guidelines.
Conservatives in Florida cheered a Dec. 30 ruling in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld a law backed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican.
The Atlanta-based court ruled 7-4 that the St. Johns County School Board in Florida did not violate Title IX when barring a biological female student, living as a transgender boy, from using a boys’ bathroom.
Writing for the majority, Judge Barbara Lagoa held that the school board’s bathroom policy “advances the important governmental objective of protecting students’ privacy in school bathrooms.”
Lagoa wrote that a policy could lawfully classify based on biological sex without unlawfully discriminating based on transgender status.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals interpreted the law a different way.
Judges there ruled that a restroom policy at Gloucester County Schools in Virginia violated Title IX by restricting access to the boys’ restroom to biological boys.
In that 2-1 decision, the 4th Circuit judges asserted their ruling was in accordance with a U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming that LGBT people are protected under a federal law prohibiting discrimination at work.
The judges were referring to the landmark Bostock v. Clayton County decision. In that ruling, justices said Title VII protects employees from being fired from their jobs because of sexual orientation or gender identity. Title VII says employers can’t discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
The Texas bill is similar to a proposed 2023 Oklahoma measure. During 2022 sessions, lawmakers in Florida, Missouri, Tennessee, and Utah adopted bills banning sexually explicit books in school libraries.
Nanette Holt and John Haughey contributed to this report.