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Poll: Texans don't trust politicos on school book bans

November 23, 2021 at 10:00 p.m.

The Dallas Morning News

DALLAS -- Texans don't trust the state's elected officials to decide which controversial books should be removed from public schools, according to a new poll from The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler.

While some of the state's Republican leaders recently have thrown themselves into the school library culture war, the poll indicates much of the electorate is skeptical about this kind of interference in education. The Morning News and UT-Tyler polled 1,106 registered voters between Nov. 9-16.

Asked whether they had faith in elected officials' judgment in identifying which books should be removed, 35% of poll respondents said they have no confidence while another 31% said "not too much." Less than 10% of people who took the poll said they trusted state leaders' judgment on books "a great deal."

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

Heather Zana, the parent of two high school students, said such decisions shouldn't fall to elected officials who may or may not have children in school.

"I'm of the opinion that a library should have some things that are controversial," said Zana, a 49-year-old living in Williamson County. "People need to learn how to think, and think through things they may not have considered before, and look at new and different viewpoints."

Earlier this month, Gov. Greg Abbott directed Texas education officials to investigate whether pornography is available in public schools and to notify law enforcement if it is accessible to children, though he did not define what he considers pornography to be.

Abbott's move escalated an already simmering political backlash against books that delve into issues of race, gender and sexuality. The Texas Education Agency, State Board of Education and Texas' library and archives commission are working to develop standards to prevent the presence of "pornography and other obscene content" in schools, at the governor's request.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Matt Krause, a Fort Forth Republican, recently launched a House investigation into what's in school libraries, sending district officials a list of more than 800 books ranging from the Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Confessions of Nat Turner" to puberty guides like "Everything You Need to Know about Going to the Gynecologist."

Krause also requested that school officials find any other curriculum or books that contain subject matter addressing sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases or any material that "might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress" because of their race or sex.

Krause said in an interview that a book's presence on his extensive list doesn't necessarily mean the title is problematic. But, he said, it's possible that the books could chafe against new state laws.

The Texas Legislature recently passed a vague new set of bills -- ostensibly to keep "critical race theory" out of the classroom -- that restrict how teachers can discuss certain historical topics and current events.

Critical race theory is an academic framework taught in higher education that probes the way policies and laws uphold systemic racism.

Print Headline: Poll: Texans don't trust politicos on school book bans


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