Cy-Fair ISD trustees gain power in book banning process

Alex Bozarjian Image
Tuesday, June 18, 2024
Cy-Fair ISD trustees gain power in book banning process
Cy-Fair ISD board members and parents are at odds over a recent move to restrict students' access to chapters in science textbooks.

CYPRESS, Texas (KTRK) -- Cy-Fair Independent School District has executed significant shifts heading into the summer.

On Monday, the Cy-fair ISD school board voted to give themselves more power to ban books from district libraries, marking the second major decision regarding instruction and reading material selection in weeks.

Before the last day of school on May 31, the board approved cutting half of its librarian positions and separately omitting science textbook chapters that all but one board trustee considered "controversial."

On Monday, the board faced parents and teachers who wanted answers about the textbook issue and the library book review process.

The new library material review policy gives the board of trustees the ultimate responsibility of looking through, selecting, and reconsidering library books.

Another heavily debated update to the policy is ensuring new library books up for consideration will be posted to the district's website for at least 30 days before being included in the library.

These lists must also be provided to the superintendent and board at least five days before being posted on the website.

Parents and educators fear this will empower the board to override the decisions of review committees.

According to the board meeting agenda, at least 19 people registered to speak about a "Level 1 complaint filed by an employee regarding adoption of science instructional materials."

ABC13's partners at Community Impact Newspaper report the employee is Alicia Royer, a 30-year science instructor at Cypress Falls High School. In a June 14 report, Royer claims the board violated a policy stating that members should rely on district personnel to select instructional material. This came after board Vice President Natalie Blasingame put to a vote the removal of 13 chapters from a list of 25 textbooks the board had to approve.

Royer told Community Impact she was on a committee reviewing instructional materials, but its recommendations weren't considered before the May 6 vote.

In the June 14 report, Blasingame is quoted questioning global warming impacts after she read an excerpt from an omitted chapter.

"'Global warming will affect precipitation and snow melt; cause extreme weather; alter biodiversity; melt arctic sea ice and glaciers; add to the acidification of the oceans; and cause sea level rise,'" Blasingame read from the textbook on June 13. "Is that true? Where's the data? Where was the reference?"

Another trustee, Todd LeCompte, also questioned Royer about vaccine information being included in biology textbooks, which falls outside her purview since she teaches earth systems.

He implied vaccines cause autism, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have refuted.

Lesley Guilmart, president of the nonpartisan nonprofit Cypress Families for Public Schools, said she believes censoring science textbooks will make it more difficult for students to engage in critical thinking.

"There's no 'both sides' to scientific data. The data is the data. ... Analysis and evaluation can enter the picture in science class when students are given the opportunity to consider whether or not rising temperatures and sea levels are a problem that should be addressed. Why don't six of the CFISD board members trust educators to facilitate this exploration?" she said in an emailed statement to Community Impact.

Royer's complaint was a couple of items after the board revised how the district reviews library materials.

Part of the policy requires educators to categorize all library content as juvenile, young adult, or adult and ensure parents have a say in the reading materials their children can access at school.

Community Impact reported that a few community members, including a trustee's wife, submitted most requests for books to be removed.

Community Impact Newspaper contributed to this report.

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