Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott called for a criminal investigation into pornographic books following his calls earlier in the week for state education agencies to develop standards to prevent “pornography and other obscene content” from showing up in the state’s public schools.
Abbott is directing officials to look for pornography in public schools and inform law enforcement if such material is found in a push for “more immediate action … to protect Texas students” while state standards are being developed, he said in a Wednesday letter to Education Commissioner Mike Morath.
“The presence of pornography in schools is not only inappropriate, but it is also against the law,” Abbott wrote, according to Section 43.24 of the Texas Penal Code, which makes it illegal to provide pornography to anyone under the age of 18.
“I am directing the Texas Education Agency to investigate any criminal activity in our public schools involving the availability of pornography,” Abbott continued. “During this investigation, I ask the agency to refer any instance of pornography being provided to minors under the age of 18 for prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.”
In a Monday letter, the governor called on the Texas Education Agency (TEA), Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) and the Texas State Board of Education (TSBE) “to immediately develop statewide standards to prevent the presence of pornography and other obscene content in Texas public schools, including in school libraries.”
These standards must ensure transparency about the materials that are taught and available in the classroom, include a process that gives parents and community members the ability to vet library materials and informs parents of the formal grievance process if an inappropriate book is identified, Abbott said in his Monday letter.
In a Nov. 1 letter to the Texas Association of School Boards (TSBA), along with the TEA, TSBE and the TSLAC, Abbott warned about a growing number of parents who are increasingly alarmed by the books and other “extremely inappropriate” content found in the public school education system and said the TSBA has “an obligation to determine the extent to which such materials exist or are used in our schools and to remove any such content.”
The TASB said it was confused why it was sent the letter because it has “no regulatory authority over school districts and does not set the standards for instructional materials, including library books,” spokeswoman Theresa Gage previously told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Abbott said the TASB has an obligation as “the only entity in Texas that represents every local school board” in the state to “ensure that school districts are adopting the best practices when it comes to vetting the content schools are making available to students.”
Instead of doing this, Abbott said the TSBA “has attempted to wash its hands clean of the issue by abdicating any and all responsibility in the matter,” and called on the TEA, TSBE and the TSLAC to do what the TASB “refuses to do.”
In his Monday letter, Abbott mentions Keller Independent School District, which recently removed one book, “Gender Queer: a Memoir,” by Maia Kobabe from a school library after parents complained that the book includes pornographic language and illustrations.
Abbott cited another book, “In the Dream House,” by Carmen Maria Machado which was removed from classrooms in Leander Independent School District for its “overtly sexual and pornographic acts.”
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