Since the 2021 legislative session, Texas Republicans’ push for censorship has only escalated. From the Texas legislature, Congress, the House of Representatives and the White House, what started as an anti-critical race theory talking point has now creeped into the libraries and classrooms across the United States.
Katy Independent School District is just one of many districts where officials decided to remove numerous titles off bookshelves for what they find “pervasively vulgar.” But many of the books deemed “vulgar” have been accessible to students for years and discuss issues like systematic racism, LGBTQ+ issues, the Holocaust, reproductive rights, and more.
So, students at Seven Lakes, Taylor, Jordan, and Tompkins High School are taking the matter into their own hands by organizing a book drive with the “controversial” books in question. In partnership with the non-profit organization Voters of Tomorrow, students plan to distribute hundreds of books to peers from Feb. 21-28.
The books “Beloved” by Toni Morsion and “Maus” by Art Spiegelman, are just two of many books that students wanted to highlight. And students are well aware of Republican tactics and are saying the quiet part out loud.
The Signal spoke with students at Seven Lakes High School who distributed over 50 books on their first day. And are hoping to not only change the ban, but censorship policies in the district across the board.
“They believe that these books contain information or even self enlightement information that validates peoples identities, especially with books talking about racism and anti-semitism,” senior Cynthia Zhang said.
“If people learn about these books in their perspective then they will have the ability to speak up against the current government and policies that we have, which will disrupt the status quo that they want to maintain.”
Junior Achana Peiris, who is also treasurer of the Women’s Rights Club on campus, said she was incredibly shocked when the initial ban happened. So being involved in the book drive seemed like the moral thing to do.
“They’re limiting access to these non-harmful books that help kids my age find expression and help with their life experiences in the real world,” she said. “Fighting against censorship would fight against the erasure of history like slavery and the Holocaust. Students do want a say on what they can and cannot read and they will fight back. We will take a part in our learning and want a say.”
Moreover, according to senior Neha Rao, the district’s policy of alerting parents when a student decides to check out a young adult fiction book is just a start.
“That can create a lot of turmoil for individuals who feel like their family isn’t always supportive of who they are and who they want to be,” Rao said. “These books cover topics that aren’t always covered in the classroom. Books are sometimes the only way people can access that knowledge not just people who are queer or people of color, but students who want to learn more about the world in general.”
Students have two more book drives planned for Thursday at Jordan High School and Friday at Tompkins High School. And plan to take their message to officials at the district school board meeting on Feb. 28.
Kennedy is a recent graduate of the University of St.Thomas in Houston where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Celt Independent. Kennedy brings her experience of writing about social justice issues to the Texas Signal where she serves as our Political Reporter. She does everything from covering crime beats, Texas politics, and community activism. Kennedy is a passionate reporter, avid reader, coffee enthusiast, and loves to travel.