HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- On Monday, the Spring Branch ISD school board voted to expedite the district's book reevaluation process.
The 4-3 vote removes the first two layers of its review process, skipping input from librarians, teachers and administrators.
Now, the process skips straight to the third and final review. The remaining stages require board input only.
"You are expediting the process," Dr. Mark Jones, a professor of political science at Rice University, said.
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Nathalie Herpin, a Spring Branch ISD parent and director of the Families 4 Every Child political-action committee, spoke to ABC13 and said that more than 40 books had been submitted for review this school year -- a far cry from the eight submitted in 2022 and the zero submitted in 2021.
"If there's a particular book that, as a parent, I don't want my child to read, then that's between me, as the parent, and my child. It's not between me and the school. I don't have the right to remove a book for an entire school or an entire district based on my feelings about the book," Dr. Margaret Hale of the University of Houston College of Education said.
Parents and activists like Herpin have put up many of the books submitted up for reconsideration.
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"It's important that we're able to question when we see something that we have a concern with, but I think it's important to teach our children critical thinking skills," she said.
A list shared with ABC13 by a district spokesperson shows titles submitted for reconsideration, including "Magic Treehouse: Dragon of the Red Dawn" and "Dog Man: A Tale of Two Kitties."
Sources tell ABC13 they believe innocuous reads are being submitted for review to clog up the system, prompting the Monday evening vote.
"For every action, there's a reaction, and so the push to begin to ban books has also brought out counter-opponents who want to keep the books there," Jones said.
When the board took up the discussion Monday night, the superintendent revealed that she was actually the one who asked trustees to step in. With the end of the school year approaching, Dr. Jennifer Blaine said she wanted all of her teachers, administrators, and librarians focused on education and instruction, not book reevaluations.
Trustees Caesar, Gonzales, and Klam were the three trustees who voted against taking educators out of the process. They argued that it wasn't the board's place to make these kinds of decisions.
The board members who voted in favor of the amendment said the suspension of the first two levels of the reevaluation process would be temporary, and they would prioritize elementary-level, "frivolous" titles that have been challenged ahead of more difficult books to help with the backlog.
In SBISD, 50 titles have been challenged since August 2021. Forty-two of those challenges happened this school year. Educators have had 28 committee meetings so far to deal with them before Dr. Blaine asked the board for assistance.
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