New Cy-Fair ISD rule will allow parents to block borrowing from libraries

Parents of Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District students will be able to block their children from borrowing books from school libraries this year, under a new policy passed by the district’s board of trustees.

The seven-member board on Monday night voted unanimously to approve a new library materials policy.

Board members said the new policy was a victory for transparency and parental involvement in their children’s education. But critics who spoke at Monday night’s board meeting said the new policy made extra work for librarians and teachers at the beginning of the new school year.

The new policy will also allow parents to choose what “level” of books their child is allowed to read. For instance, some middle school children will only be allowed to access books that are classified as “juvenile,” unless their parent gives permission for them to check out books classified as “young adult,” officials said. Older students would have a choice to be allowed to check out “adult” level books.

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The policy would affect more than 114,000 students across 92 school campuses when implemented in November. The first day of school is Aug. 22.

The new policy comes after months of controversy about public school lessons and library books across Texas. Some parents and conservative lawmakers have accused liberals of smuggling ideological material into public schools.

Last year, the Texas Legislature passed a law banning “critical race theory” from being taught in Texas schools, restricting how racism and the legacy of slavery can be addressed in class. There have also been efforts by the same groups to ban allegedly inappropriate books from schools and libraries.

Under the new policy, book levels will follow definitions already used by publishers, officials said during a workshop meeting last Thursday. Still, district librarians will have to review thousands of books in its collections to decide which level the books belonged. Teachers will also have to inventory the books in their individual classroom libraries.

School board trustee Lucas Scanlon said the policy enabled parents “to understand what’s in the library.” At the workshop meeting, Scanlon said the district was “responding to the need of parents to have a level of comfort.”

Board members said the district created its policy based on a memorandum published in April by the Texas Education Agency.

“Parents need to feel safe sending our kids to public schools,” said Trustee Natalie Blasingame. “Parents need to have a voice. If there are parents who don’t want their children to have access, they should have a voice to say no.”

Blasingame and other officials said the policy was already informally allowed. A parent might call school librarians and tell them not to allow their child to check out certain books or certain authors.

School leaders initially worried the policy would result in libraries being closed at the beginning of the school year, as librarians and teachers started to review books for their levels. A large group of teachers and school district advocates also protested the policy over the burden it would put on teachers.

“The immediate negative impacts on them is urgent,” said Stacy DeMyer, a parent with children in the school district. “Aside from the fact that we should be trusting our highly trained teachers, requiring them to inventory their books by the first day of school, or else risk they be excluded from use until they do so, is entirely unreasonable.”

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