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Leander ISD pulls 11 books from curriculum after year-long review

A bunch of books from a reading list for Leander ISD
Photo illustration by Michael Minasi
Leander ISD put several books under review last year, such as "Kiss Number 8" and "Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me." Some were pulled from the English curriculum, but others will return to classrooms.

Leander Independent School District will be removing 11 books from high schoolers' curriculum after a year-long review of titles parents deemed inappropriate.

This marks the final step in the district's plan to address a debate around student reading materials that began last fall. Parents complained about certain books available in English classes, arguing they contained inappropriate content and were not challenging enough for high schoolers. The district responded by removing some of the books until they could undergo a review process — an action that's caused backlash from groups like PEN America who are calling out LISD for censorship.

The 11 books, which include V for Vendetta and The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel, were not required reading, but part of student "book clubs." In English classes, teachers have students select one book from a list of around 15 to read and discuss in groups. Students are not required to read any particular book, and they can also ask to choose a book that's not on the provided lists.

At school board meetings and on social media last school year, parents argued the books shouldn't be used in school because they contained sexual content, sexual assault references, foul language and graphic images.

Following the backlash, the district had the books reviewed by a group of staff, parents and community members called the Community Curriculum Advisory Committee.

The CCAC recommended that certain books be removed for reasons such as sexual content, graphic violence and strong language.

This fall, the CCAC and curriculum leaders completed a final review. They published their findings this week, naming the books that will be permanently removed from book clubs and classroom libraries. They are:

  • Brave Face: A Memoir by Shaun David Hutchinson
  • The Handmaid's Tale: The Graphic Novel by Margaret Atwood and Renee Nault
  • In the Dream House: A Memoir by Carmen Maria Machado
  • None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio
  • The Nowhere Girls by Amy Lynn Reed
  • Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez
  • Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" The Authorized Graphic Adaptation by Myles Hyman
  • Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • V for Vendetta by Alan Moore
  • Y: The Last Man Book One by Brian K. Vaughan

Some books that were pulled last school year and put under review were placed back in classrooms and will be made available to students for future book clubs. Those include:

  • American Street by Ibi Zoboi
  • The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
  • Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw
  • Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki
  • Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir by Nikki Grimes

Other books the district heard concerns about but never removed — Know My Name: A Memoir, Speak: The Graphic Novel, and What We Saw — will remain in use.

PEN America, a nonprofit that promotes literature and free expression, has repeatedly called for LISD to allow these books in school. The organization said in a statement Thursday that it "decries" LISD's decision to remove these 11 books "as an unwarranted exercise in censorship."

Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education at PEN America, said the removal of the books was "a profound disappointment.”

“The entire process has been unusual, opaque, and worrying — more about appeasing sensitive parents than serving student learners," Friedman said. "One cannot deny that the books on the chopping block all deal with LGBTQ+ issues, sex, and racism and that they were singled out because of these themes.”

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Allyson Ortegon is a former Williamson County reporter for KUT.
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