By Maggie Stern, Youth Engagement Policy and Program Manager
Chair Creighton and members, thank you for the opportunity to testify tonight on behalf of the Children’s Defense Fund of Texas. We are a nonpartisan children’s advocacy organization, and we urge you to reject fearmongering and oppose HB 900.
First, HB 900 is part of a well documented trend of banning books. Our written testimony includes data on book bans disproportionately targeting stories about race and racism, LGBTQ+ identity, and mental health. You will also see the books that have been challenged and banned in the school districts that you represent. Senator Paxton, in your districts, challenged and banned books disturbingly include biographies of Eleanor Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr. and picture books about Pride and the fight against school segregation.
Second, HB 900 creates a surveillance system that harms young people who are experiencing abuse or living with unsupportive families. Books are a safe refuge that can provide the language and courage to ask for help. Students with homophobic families especially should not be subjected to increased surveillance of their library records.
Third, HB 900 silences parents, students, and educators, and puts crucial educational decisions in the hands of book vendors and the Texas Education Agency – a burden on small business owners, especially when HB 900 lacks definitions for “pervasively vulgar or educationally unsuitable”, but also a system with no opportunity for local community input.
And fourth, HB 900 would have a costly impact on Texas schools. A records request from Spring Branch ISD recently found that the district spent over $30,000 and 226 staff hours reviewing one book this year. The district has received over 40 reconsideration requests. What programs do you suggest districts cut in order to afford the costs of biannual library reviews?
Let’s listen to the students and families who have been speaking up against book bans across the state, and oppose HB 900.