All Fort Worth ISD school libraries closed while district reexamines books on shelves

Fort Worth ISD says the person in charge of the catalog at its school libraries is now in a different role.

All of the libraries are shut down right now while the district does a full assessment of the books on their shelves. It comes after three books had to be removed before the school year started.

Some of the books are too graphic to show or read on television, and some parents believe that’s a clear example of why their kids should not have access to them.

Changes are happening at Fort Worth ISD after several controversial LGBTQ books, including "Gender Queer," were found in some of the district’s elementary and middle school libraries. 

Mary Jane Bowman is the executive director of humanities and student academic support initiatives for Fort Worth ISD. She is new to the district and says there has not been a consistent review process. 

"Typically, what should be happening is that the director of library media services is also part of reviewing books as they’re coming in. Was that not happening this past year with these several books that were uncovered? That I am not sure," she said.

Director of Library Services Victor Chapa is now no longer in that position, according to the district, but it did not say what role he’s currently in.

However, a Victor Chapa account on Linkedin says he is new this month to the position of geography UIL academic coordinator after serving 11 months as the district's director of library services.

The district says he chose to return to the classroom to teach.

"Our current interim director is working with our librarians to be able to make sure that we’ve done our due diligence," Bowman said.

The school year began Monday, but the district says, "Every campus library will be closed through Aug. 25 so catalogs can be inventoried."

Since the district pulled three books in the last month, its review list has grown. It has more than 100 books it’s reviewing. Most are sexual in nature. Some are violent.

"I would say within the last couple of months with the passing of House Bill 900, there’s been more attention placed on it," Bowman said.


Texas House passes bill that aims to keep sexually explicit materials out of school libraries

Legal experts, librarians and some parents say House Bill 900’s language is so vague and broad that it could ensnare books that are not inappropriate.

House Bill 900 will require school districts to obtain written consent from a student’s parent to access "sexually relevant materials at a school library." 

"The state will require our publishers to provide us with ratings of these books just like if you were going to the movies," Bowman said. "And we’re hoping that those ratings are consistent from one publisher to the next."

The district admits that in the past it relied too heavily on publishers to say what was inside books instead of doing its own research. So moving forward, things will change.

"We’re still in the initial stages in terms of who the approved vendors are that we’ll be utilizing," Bowman said.

At last month’s board meeting, members of the public had a chance to sound off on the issue.

Parents can request books be reconsidered through an online portal.        

LINK: Library Media Services webpage