Keller ISD parents upset after ban on gender fluidity books

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A parent of a non-binary student says the ban sends a message that students are not welcome.

KELLER, Texas — More than 70 people spoke for nearly three hours at Monday’s Keller ISD board meeting to discuss the place of books in schools.

“We are ready to chase people away rather than kiss them,” said a relative.

“That’s exactly what Satan is trying to do now, to warp the minds of our children to fight in his war,” another parent weighed.

The debate centered on the advisability of modifying the district library policy to ban all books that deal with or include non-binary or transgender characters, which the district describes as “gender fluidity.”

“Hearing so many people get up last night, it was heartbreaking,” Gretchen Veling, Keller’s parent, said Tuesday.

Veling was one of several speakers at Monday’s meeting and advocated to the board on behalf of his son, a district elder who is non-binary.

“I promise you my child is not a political agenda,” Veling said at the meeting. “I’m so proud of every single one of them. Unfortunately, from where I stand, it seems that their lives don’t matter to you.

Council adopted measure 4-2. Keller is one of several North Texas school districts in Tarrant County where a Christian and conservative political group helped elect school board members.

“I trust librarians. I trust our teachers and wanted to know that I didn’t have to look at this list, but here I find several books that are unfortunately part of the LGBTQ community,” said school board member Joni Shaw Smith during Of the reunion.

“Discussions about gender fluidity and other ideologies have no place in schools,” said council vice president Sandi Walker.

Veling was moved to share that, as disappointed as she heard the comments from community members, the council’s words added insult to injury.

“I’ve been going to the school board for a while now and honestly I think last night was the hardest. It was tough,” she said. “I didn’t see any empathy in the four board members. I didn’t see any.

Frisco’s board voted on Monday to change its board policy, which has already been criticized for ban hundreds of books including national bestsellers, a book by Stephen Hawking and classics like The Hobbit or The Giver in grade six and up.

“Many of the resources deemed controversial have a direct impact on the voices of marginalized communities,” a Frisco student said during the council meeting.

Keller’s book ban controversy gained national attention this summer when the district briefly banned the Bible and a graphic adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary.

Veling said deleting books doesn’t erase the information they contain, it only harms children by sending a message that students are undesirable subjects.

“I feel like the indoctrination is trying to shut down exposure to what’s going on in our world and keep them shut down,” she said. “Our biggest fear is teachers jumping ship, counselors jumping ship, school principals jumping ship and then where does that leave our children.”

Keller ISD’s new policy is an update to a section for books it created in August with guides indicating which grade could read books on topics such as alcohol and drug use and kisses.

The ACLU of Texas said the new policy violated the First Amendment and “seeks to erase transgender and non-binary identity. This sends the message that transgender and non-binary students do not belong in the Keller ISD community”

Texas lawmakers have begun tabling bills for next year’s legislative session, and Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress, proposed a bill requiring publishers to assign content ratings to books before they can be sold to schools, similar to movie ratings.

Veling said just having the books about non-binary and transgender characters would be a sign of acceptance.

“I wonder if any of those people in that room actually sat down and had a conversation with a trans person,” she said. “If you only read a book about people who look and feel like you, you will never grow as individuals.”

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