CDF-TX Freedom to Learn
Book Bans Have No Place in Texas
Texas students deserve access to books that reflect their own lives, teach them about others’ lives, and inspire them to lead.
But some Texas politicians have promoted book ban efforts that target LGBTQ+, Black, and other marginalized students—on books that save lives.
Book bans have deep roots in the United States, from bans on anti-slavery writings in the early 1800s to McCarthy-era bans on “subversive” materials, such as LGBTQ+ works. Today, Texas districts have banned more books in the past two years than any other state, and in 2023, the Texas legislature passed House Bill 900 (HB 900), their latest attempt to ban books.
HB 900 threatens students’ freedom to read, increases state surveillance of school libraries, and ultimately disempowers parents and students from making decisions for their own families. Despite the bill, educators, students, and families can still work together to provide a diverse and engaging reading collection for all students. We created a guide that will give an overview of HB 900 and discuss its impact on Texas schools below.
This affects everyone across our state. Together we must raise our voices and defend the freedom to learn with the resources included here. Whether you’re a student, parent, educator, or community member, there’s a role for you in this fight!
Click the buttons below to get informed and take action!
The information provided is intended to convey general information only and not to provide legal advice or opinions. Information shared on this page and in any documents linked on this page should not be construed as or be relied upon as legal advice in any particular circumstance or factual situation. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments. An attorney should be contacted for advice on specific legal questions, issues and/or interpretation of the law.
HB 900: The Book Ban Bill
House Bill 900 (HB 900), authored by Representative Jared Patterson (R-Frisco), is the latest extremist attempt to ban books in Texas. HB 900 threatens students’ freedom to read by creating a bureaucratic book rating system, increasing state surveillance of school libraries, and taking decisions around what to read away from parents and students.
HB 900 goes into effect on September 1, 2023 (barring pending lawsuits). This guide is designed for librarians and educators to navigate this new legislation with confidence while still promoting the freedom to read.
The new law lays out a clear timeline, with most responsibilities falling on state agencies and book vendors. School districts should understand this timeline and avoid removing books pre-emptively.
To understand this new legislation, the timeline, and what it means for educators, click the toggles under each date below.
A coalition of Texas booksellers and national associations have filed a lawsuit against HB 900 because it violates their freedom of speech and is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. Bookstores including BookPeople and Blue Willow Bookshop have asked the court to push back the implementation date until the case is decided (known as a “temporary injunction”). For more information on this lawsuit, see here, and follow us for future updates!
HB 900: Timeline
January 1, 2024
Deadline for the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) to develop collections policies for school libraries, with State Board of Education (SBOE) approval.
What Needs to Happen
TSLAC – TSLAC must create a mandatory library collections policy for every public school district. School library standards were previously voluntary, giving local schools the power to adapt them as needed to their communities. All other standards will continue to be voluntary.
HB 900 sets out specific requirements for the mandatory library collection policy. Of note:
- Some threaten the freedom to read. For example, the policy must recognize parents as the primary decision-makers of students’ access to library materials. This threatens students’ autonomy – especially if they live in unsupportive or abusive homes – and contradicts other sections of the bill that give decision-making power to book vendors and the Texas Education Agency.
- The requirements prohibit removing books based solely on the ideas in the material, the personal background of the author, or the personal background of the characters. Librarians and educators should not remove books for these reasons.
SBOE – The SBOE must vote to approve the library collections policy.
What This Means for Schools
As of August 10, 2023, TSLAC has submitted draft rules to SBOE for consideration. There will be further opportunities for public input this fall. Until these rules are finally adopted, schools should continue to use their current collections policy.
Districts like Katy ISD have paused library purchases. This is an unnecessary response that places undue stress on educators and librarians and restricts students’ access to books.
April 1, 2024
Deadline for book vendors to submit ratings of all books previously sold to schools to the Texas Education Agency (TEA). TEA will approve ratings, order any revisions, and post these lists publicly.
September 1 (annual)
Book vendors must submit annually updated ratings lists of books sold to school districts in the last year. TEA will approve ratings, order revisions, and post these lists publicly.
What Needs to Happen
Book Vendors – Any vendor who sells library materials to a public school or charter school in Texas must complete this process. A vendor could be as large as Amazon or Follett, or as small as your local bookstore.
Vendors must identify books as “sexually explicit” or “sexually relevant” based on a contextual analysis of any book that contains “patently offensive” sexual conduct, and consider the explicitness, frequency, and intent of any such descriptions. However, HB 900 stops at these subjective standards, and does not specify what will happen when vendors rate books differently.
Vendors will not be able to sell library materials to districts unless they have completed this process. They may not sell materials that they rated “sexually explicit” to school districts and must issue a “recall” for any books they previously sold with this rating. It is not clear how vendors will notify schools about any “recalled” books.
TEA – TEA will post vendor ratings publicly. TEA will also have the unilateral authority to order booksellers to change book ratings, although HB 900 does not provide clarity on how TEA will conduct that review or determine incorrect ratings. Unlike other agency rulings, there is no required community input or appeals process. If TEA decides that a book has been rated incorrectly, the offending vendor may not sell any books to schools until they comply with TEA’s order to change the rating. TEA will publicly post a list of vendors who are not compliant with the law or their required ratings.
What This Means for Schools
Most importantly, school districts, teachers, and librarians are not responsible for rating books and are not required to review their collections until after vendors submit their ratings.
Following the release of these ratings in 2024, school districts must remove any books rated “sexually explicit” by book vendors or TEA. Follow TEA for further updates. Until ratings are finalized, schools should continue to use their existing book review processes. Again, librarians and educators should not remove books based solely on the ideas contained in the material, the personal background of the author, or the personal background of the characters.
Teachers and librarians should continue to work with parents and students to find books that are relevant and engaging for each student. A school district, open-enrollment charter school, teacher, librarian, or other school staff cannot be held responsible for a vendor’s violation of HB 900.
January 1, 2025
School districts and open-enrollment charter schools must review all books in their catalog and submit a report of any books rated “sexually relevant” in their collections. This is based solely on the ratings list published by TEA.
What Needs to Happen
Beginning Jan. 1, 2025, and every odd-numbered year moving forward, school districts must repeat this process. The report must include book titles, the location (school or campus), and the decision to retain or remove books rated “sexually relevant.”
Please note: under HB 900, schools may make decisions on keeping books rated “sexually relevant” based on their own library review policies. HB 900 does require parents to give consent for their children to check out a book rated “sexually relevant,” but provides no guidelines for how this must be done, so districts have leeway to design the best process for their communities.
What This Means for Schools
This law is an unfunded mandate that places the onus on districts to pay for its implementation. Because book challenges often require legal counseling, districts could be forced to spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of staff hours addressing book challenges and reviews. Districts may seek assistance from TEA, but not funding to meet the reporting requirements of HB 900.
Before this bill was passed, districts like Spring Branch ISD spent $30,000 dollars and 220 staff hours reviewing just one book. The reporting requirements in HB 900 alone may cost each district tens of thousands in taxpayer dollars.
The parental consent requirement also puts children with abusive or unsupportive families at risk. Books may be the first place a student finds the language to name their own experience and the tools to ask for support. If LGBTQ+ books or books about sexual abuse continue to be targeted under this law, students who need these lifesaving books most will need additional resources and support.
HB 900 does not outright ban LGBTQ+ books or books about sexual abuse—in fact, Rep. Patterson stated that this is not the intent of the bill. But as advocates, we know that language like “sexually relevant” is too often used to justify banning books with LGBTQ+ characters or stories about sexual abuse. Students deserve to read stories that relate to their lives, remind them that they are not alone, and give them the tools and language to ask for support. Librarians and educators should not remove books based solely on the ideas contained in the material, the personal background of the author, or the personal background of the characters. Read more.
Fight for the Freedom to Learn
Talk to your school board!
Your school board trustees represent you – even if you can’t vote yet. Call, email, or give testimony during public school board meetings.
Talk to your parents about banned books.
Let adults in your life know why these books matter to you and encourage them to vote in key elections that influence what happens in schools and libraries.
Learn how to start a student-run banned books club.
Use this interview between the ACLU and the high school founder of the Vandegrift Banned Books Club in Leander ISD to help you get started.
Connect with community organizations.
Connect with Students Engaged in Advancing Texas (SEAT) to organize with other students fighting against book bans and advocating for students to have a SEAT at the policymaking table.
Access vital resources online.
Book bans in school libraries restrict vital resources for all students, especially those who lack supportive families, digital access to online resources, or financial resources to purchase books. But if you have access, institutions like the Brooklyn Public Library, the Seattle Public Library, and the Digital Public Access Library of America all offer free library cards that allow you to read e-books. Some age and location restrictions apply.
Seek out organizational support!
Follow the American Library Association to report censorship, track book ban data, and get support for facing book challenges including guidance, legal aid, and financial support. Organizations like PEN America, EveryLibrary, and CDF-Texas can also support you if you’re facing censorship or attempted book bans in your school.
Check out helpful resources.
Check out this handbook from the National Coalition Against Censorship and the National Council of Teachers of English. It includes guidance for developing instructional material policies and for navigating book challenges.
Start a book club with students and parents.
This is a great way to share literature with families and create bonds between educators and the community through reading!
Familiarize yourself with new laws to avoid confusion in your school.
Laws like HB 900 often have unintended consequences because they are confusing and implemented impractically. The best defense against misinformation is reading the bill language and following trusted organizations like CDF-Texas and our partners at FReadom Fighters, ACLU-TX, or Texas Freedom Network. In combination with your school’s library policies, this helps ensure you feel confident in all the educational decisions you make!
Vote in your local elections.
School board elections have a tremendous impact on your child’s educational experience, but they typically have low voter turnout. Keep track of what’s going on with your school board to make sure your local elected officials represent you and your student’s needs.
Organize with other like-minded parents.
The more parents we have fighting against book bans, the more responsive school officials and elected leaders will be. Use your power as a parent to advocate in your community. Check out Unite Against Book Bans, FReadom Fighters, and GLAAD for candidate questionnaires, templates for speaking at school board meetings, guidance to creating community groups, and more!
Talk with your children about what they’re reading and about efforts to ban books.
Let them know you support their freedom to read and encourage them to check out the student section for ways they can speak up alongside you!
For Community Members
Talk to your representatives and vote in upcoming elections.
Everyone has the right to speak up to your school board members and state representatives to urge them to support the freedom to read. You can track statewide legislation with EveryLibrary and join their Fight for the First campaign for support with community organizing.
Familiarize yourself with book challenges in your area.
Book bans have occurred all across the state of Texas and your district may be affected. Find out if your district is banning books with PEN America’s index.
Learn more about our Youth Civic Education and Engagement work.Learn More
See and share our joint advisory letter
We’re calling on Texas districts to refrain from taking unnecessary action, avoid unconstitutional book bans, and protect students’ freedom to read.Learn More
Calling all young Texans! Join our network of young advocates and get support to organize your community.Learn More