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After removing eight books from Midland ISD libraries, school officials consider whether they are appropriate

Carlos Morales
Marfa Public Radio

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Midland Independent School District officials are in the process of reviewing a number of books found in libraries across the district.

A contentious school board meeting on March 19 sparked the review after a group of ministers and concerned residents confronted the district’s school board over eight titles they said are unacceptable and too explicit. In a press release, a district spokesperson said officials have already “collected the books” and “wiIl take appropriate action.”

Many of the books that were flagged — including “Me, Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews, “Crank” by Ellen Hopkins, and “Push” by Sapphire — are titles often targeted by book banning efforts across the country, according to the nonprofit PEN America.

At the March meeting, John Amanchuka, a pastor from North Carolina, led the effort to remove the books from the district’s libraries. To convince school officials, many in his group read excerpts from books depicting sex acts, violence and drug use.

According to Midland ISD’s policy, anyone who lives within the district’s boundaries, is a parent of a student or is a district employee can submit a formal request for a book to be recategorized or removed from libraries.

Midland ISD Superintendent Stephanie Howard told those gathered at the meeting, “I want to assure you that we will certainly review the books that were listed tonight and take appropriate action.”

A committee of three district staff are currently combing through the eight books — along with any other titles that are a part of the same series as a flagged book. According to district policy, once the review is completed a written report will be presented to district leaders and the person who brought forward the complaint.

As part of the district’s review process, a “guiding principle” says a book being assessed “shall not be restricted during the reconsideration process.” However, Lyndsey White, Midland ISD’s chief communications officer, explained in an email that in order to “expedite” the assessment, books were removed from shelves. But she explained, “Per policy, should a book be requested to be checked out, the requestor will be allowed to do so.”

The recent effort to remove books from local schools falls in line with ongoing efforts to censor libraries in Midland County and across the state.

Last summer, as local leaders endorsed removing and recategorizing titles found at local public libraries, the Midland County Commissioners voted to end its membership with the American Library Association. Many of the books singled out by that effort were located in the children’s and teens sections, those books largely focused on the LGBTQ community, race and sex education.

Mitch Borden is Permian Basin Reporter & Producer at Marfa Public Radio.