Book Banning

The Texas State Board of Education passed legislation in late 2023 prohibiting sexually explicit, pervasively vulgar or educationally unsuitable books in public schools. Since then, Texas teachers have lost jobs or been pressured to resign after making challenged books available to students. However, one teacher in a Texas public school has opened a secret bookshelf to provide these banned books to inquiring students.

The Secret Shelf

The secret bookshelf began in late 2021, when a state representative sent public schools a list of 850 books to be banned from schools. The representative claimed they may make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex. This teacher swung into action, calling friends to support a bookshelf that would include all of the books the representative would ban. She then enlisted a student to help her put it together.


The Texas FReadom Fighters are an activist group seeking to ensure libraries around the state maintain a robust selection of books in the face of these bans. They say they’ve been seeing a climate of fear and self-censorship going on by school leaders and librarians. Many of whom do not understand the implications of the law and are fearful for their jobs. PEN America, another activist group, says that things must change as well. They point to a teacher fired for sharing a graphic novel with her students which showed Anne Frank having romantic daydreams about another girl. Another teacher featured on an NBC podcast left her job under pressure after making literature available to students featuring a positive transgender character.

The Courts

Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals blocked part of a recently passed bill that would have required rating any books sold to schools for sexual content. This was seen as a victory for these freedom-to-read activists. However, they note that the bill still contains dangerously vague language about material prohibited in school and no clear guidelines about enforcement.

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