Texas governor orders criminal probe into ‘pornography’ in school books

Conservative furor over what is taught in public schools reached a fever pitch in Texas on Wednesday, as Republican Gov. Greg Abbott announced a criminal probe into what he called “pornography” in school libraries, his third directive on the matter this month.

“The fact that pornographic material that serves no educational purpose has been made available to students in Texas public schools is a clear violation of the law,” Abbott wrote in a Wednesday letter, directing the Texas Education Agency to, “investigate any criminal activity in our public schools involving the availability of pornography” to minors and to refer cases for prosecution.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that no Texas child is exposed to pornography or obscene content while in a Texas public school,” he wrote.

Abbott released two previous letters this month decrying the availability of “pornography” in school libraries. On Tuesday, he wrote a letter directing the state education agency, library and board of education to create statewide standards “to ensure no child is exposed to pornography or other inappropriate content in a Texas public school.” Earlier this month, Abbott wrote to the Texas Assn. of School Boards, demanding they “shield children from pornography and other inappropriate content.”

“The association abdicated their responsibility to address the issue,” Abbott wrote Wednesday.

Among the books cited as possibly pornographic are “Lawn Boy,” which refers to oral sex between boys, and the other, “Losing the Girl,” which features LGBTQ characters.

Texas state lawmakers last summer banned public schools from teaching critical race theory, a decades-old academic theory that is not taught in any public school. In addition to a call to remove books deemed pornographic, Texas conservatives have also moved to ban books that deal with race and gender. Since then, school board meetings have grown heated across the country, including the politically mixed suburbs of Texas’s largest cities, as conservative parents attempt to challenge and remove books they claim are critical race theory or obscene.

Opponents of the book challenges say their real intent is to excise stories by and about minorities and those who are LGBTQ. Richard Price, political science professor at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, and author of the Adventures In Censorship blog, said the attacks amount to a “war on books.” As some schools have caved to such challenges, Price said, the appetite has only grown for more.

“Appeasement of censors only encourages more censorship,” Price wrote on the blog Wednesday.

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