What to Ban and When to Banned Together



Opened book with many blackened areas and a felt pen

Eliana Fulton

One of the wonderful elements of education is the curiosity and inspiration that a book can inspire. Reading is a learning tool that provides worlds of insight, imagination and perspective that help one navigate real life experiences and conflicts. However, many of these fictional adventures are being called into question by parents over censorship concerns.
After complaints stemming from May of 2022, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky, among 34 others, were called into dispute for obscene content. Parents suggested these books be banned from high school libraries in a Conroe ISD School Board vote on January 18. Going forward, many parents argue that a reconsideration committee should be created for any disputed books that may come forward. This request should be thoroughly reorganized, and formed into a more efficient source for the continuation of decency and universal social education.
According to the District’s Board Policy Manual, challenged materials are examined, but “A parent’s ability to exercise control over instruction, including library materials, extends only to his or her own child as set forth in Education Code Chapter 26” (Board Policy Manual). This means that while parental inclusion in district education is promoted, parents do not have control over the censorship of other students.
Furthermore, there are criteria which literary sources must meet to be considered inappropriate. According to Penal Code 43.21 (a)(1), cited in the CISD Board Manual, public schools cannot distribute “harmful materials” to minors. “Harmful Material” is any book that has a primary theme of “prurient interest of a minor, in sex, nudity, or excretion, is patently offensive to prevailing standards of the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable for minors; and is utterly without redeeming social value for minors” (Texas Penal Code). In addition, Penal Code 43.21 (a)(1) prevents the distribution of obscene materials such as pornography or smut. This code can, for example, be sighted for the reason why “A Court of Mist and Fury” by Sarah J Maas was banned from all district libraries in the past year as it featured sexually explicit materials. Materials also must comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act.
With these restrictions in mind, parents who would like to report inappropriate library material should keep in mind the true context of censoring high school students, as it also adds to the workload for teachers and library staff. If every book which is disputed against takes up a committee, time and resources will be used to overanalyze the context of books which a majority of high school students have no quarrel with.
Many English teachers are reevaluating their choices for next year’s curriculum in order to avoid these unnecessary conflicts with parents. However, it is not the duty of the school system or the government to decide the moral grounds for which library systems are restricted, it is the duty of a parent to decide when a child is ready to understand the realities of higher level literature. Students who are ready to read mature content earlier have just as much right to access it as those who choose to wait. Any high school level reading is going to feature themes which some deem “too mature,” but it is important to note that they exist as a reflection of society and not the cause of deviant acts.
While explicit content should not be supplied by schools, it is unrealistic to push the investigation of every slightly immoral book. Parents who question the decisions of district officials should be able to remove any specific books from their child’s access. In fact, Superintendent Dr. Null is currently working to establish a program for parents to do exactly that.
There is a vast spectrum between “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James and “Brave New World” by Alduous Huxley, another commonly disputed classic, of thematic purpose, context, and focus. If the district does not start recognizing the difference between moral deviance and a vision of reality then it will join others across the nation in living, and not even knowing, the realities of the “Fahrenheit 451” world they live in. Ray Bradbury’s dystopia, will trade its place in the school curriculum for an adoption into reality.

For More Information:
“Board Policy Manual.” TASB, https://pol.tasb.org/PolicyOnline/PolicyDetails?key=909&code=EFB.
“Texas Penal Code § 43.24.” Law Office of Kimberly N. Shanklin, PLLC., shanklinlawfirm.com/penal-code-index/chapter43/sale-distribution-or-display-of-harmful-material-to-minor.