At the August 22, 2022 school board meeting, the new board majority passed the first policies of their kind in the nation to protect the hearts and minds of all of our children.
On August 22, 2022, four brave GCISD Trustees passed groundbreaking policies and policy revisions to protect the children in their district. Based on the law, these policies will ripple across Texas and the entire United States.
GCISD's policies lean heavily into this Bill. HB 3979 prohibits the teachings of Critical Race Theory and other racist ideologies to minors in public institutions. It protects students from feeling victimization or shame based on their skin color. The bill was passed by the House on June 15, 2021 , with a vote of 36-0.
House Bill 3979 was replaced with a streamlined version of itself in the second special session of 2021 and became Texas Senate Bill 3.
The policies site multiple sections within Chapter 26 of the Texas Education Code, which refers to parental rights and responsibilities. It also sites these sections: 28.0022(a)(3), 28.0022(a)(4), 29.906, 31.002, and 33.0834(c). These sections cover essential knowledge and skills in the curriculum, special education programs, positive character traits, the definition of instructional materials, and interscholastic athletic competition based on biological sex.
The district's policies use the definition of "Prohibited Materials" based on the Texas Penal Code's definition of harmful materials. It is a criminal offence to distribute materials that violate this definition. The specific sections of the Code are 43.21, 43.24(a)(2), and 43.24(b). In 43.21, "obscene materials" includes those that, when applying contemporary community standards, would find that taken as a whole appeal to the prurient interest in sex.
GCISD's policies pull directly from the TEA policy offered to school districts on April 11, 2022, regarding the selection and approval of library materials. The TEA policy gives full legal responsibility for the purchase of all library materials to the Board of Trustees, allowing for each community to reflect its own community standards within those materials. It further requires a district-level library supervisor or designated administrator to work cooperatively with library staff, faculty, and the administration to interpret and guide the application of the policy prior to submitting materials to the Board of Trustee for their approval. The policy further cites direct guidance from the Texas Penal Code as relates to obscene sexual content.
GCISD used 47 U.S.C. 254(h)(5) to further guide its policies. This Code states that collection development policies must demonstrate a commitment to and compliance with the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), including technology protection measures. Therefore, online materials that students can access digitally are included in the policy.
GCISD's new policy for library materials outlines the objectives for library materials, including digital resources, and as well as other mediums. Enacted by Congress in 2000, CIPA addresses concerns about children's access to obscene or harmful content over the Internet. It also imposes certain requirements on schools or libraries for their internet safety policies.
GCISD's policies align with case law. In Board of Education v. Pico, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the removal of books from libraries in public schools. This case articulates that no challenged instructional book can be removed solely because of the ideas in it. However, it allows for the removal of materials because they are pervasively vulgar or educationally unsuitable for a library. Texas Penal Code still applies related to that unsuitability.
All GCISD policies align with the voluntary standards for school libraries developed by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in consultation with the State Board of Education. In TSLAC's guidance document for school libraries and collection development, they directly state that "Parents hold an essential role and have the right to guide what their student needs."
The GCISD policies establish that the District must apply the standards, dimensions, and expectations as defined by rule 13 of the Administrative Code 4.1 for all school library programs.
In an effort to incorporate community standards into the policy, all polices are in alignment with the GCISD Student Code of Conduct.
Excerpt from p. 1. As part of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, the State Board of Education shall promote student civic engagement.
Excerpt continues on p. 2. Founding documents of the U.S. must be included in student education, including select writings from Frederick Douglass.
Excerpt of p. 3. Writings from MLK Jr. must also be included in student education, in addition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
From p. 4. This gives teachers the right NOT to teach a current controversial topic. But if they do choose to, lessons must be unbiased.
From p. 5. Teachers don't have to take trainings related to stereotyping or blame regarding race or sex, including unconscious bias training.
Excerpt from p. 5, continued.
Page 6 clarifies that meritocracy is not racist or sexist. It further rejects The 1619 Project's reframing of American history as founded on racism.
Subsection (a) states that an interscholastic athletic team sponsored by the district can only allow same-sex competitions.
Subsection (b) states that female students may compete against males if the corresponding activity isn't available for females.
Subsection (c) states the restrictions for defining a student's biological sex (whatever was properly recorded on the official birth certificate).
Subsection (d) requires that the University Interscholastic League (UIL) adopt rules to uphold these laws. These rules must respect student privacy.
Since school classroom libraries are viewed as places for voluntary inquiry, library materials must be treated differently from instructional materials used in classroom instruction. This policy provides criteria for the selection, removal, and replacement of library materials, focused on maximizing transparency with parents and community members while meeting student needs to provide supplementary enrichment in their learning with appropriate materials. Through the provision of these library materials, the District shall recognize that parents hold an essential role in the education of the children and have the right to guide what their children read.
The District shall apply the standards, dimensions, and expectations as defined by rule 13 TAC §4.1, and any related guidance including the Texas State Library and Archives Commission’s Guidance for School Libraries on Collection Development, as well as the School Library Programs: Standards and Guidelines for Texas to evaluate and set goals for the school library collection in alignment with board-approved policies and procedures.
Avoiding Inappropriate Material
Texas Penal Code §43.24(a)(2) describes harmful material as material whose dominant theme taken as a whole: (1) appeals to the prurient interest of a minor, in sex, nudity, or excretion; (2) is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable for minors; and 3) is utterly without redeeming social value for minors.
It is an offense in Texas to distribute this material in violation of Texas Penal Code §43.24(b). No library material shall be used if it contains content that can meet the harmful material standard. Finally, collection development policies must demonstrate a commitment to compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) as specified in 47 U.S.C. §254(h)(5), including technology protection measures.
Responsibility for Selection
The legal responsibility for the purchase of all library materials is vested in the Board. The board will provide final approval for all new materials added to the library. Recommendations for new material and reorders of existing materials shall be made by the district-level library supervisor or similar administrator designated by the Superintendent. This individual, with the assistance of other school personnel, shall discharge this obligation consistent with the Board's adopted selection criteria and procedures.
There is a great deal more to this policy. Please find the full text below.