Texas School Districts Should Refrain from Rating Library Books Under HB900
HB900, the Texas book rating bill, is being challenged on Constitutional grounds in federal court. Despite this, numerous school districts in Texas are acting as if HB900 is operative and are citing HB900 as the reason to rate and review school library collections. EveryLibrary has joined the Children's Defense Fund-Texas and several other free speech and education advocacy organizations in issuing a letter to School Boards and Administrators across Texas about HB900, the Readers Act, clarifying the law and cautioning them to stop removing books.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ judgment on January 26, 2024 found that key parts of HB 900, the Readers Act, are likely to be unconstitutional. This finding should caution school districts across Texas from being too eager to remove school library books. Without a final ruling, HB900 is not in force and should not guide, direct, or encourage school districts to censor. In the end, we sincerely hope that the Judge finds for the Constitution and against the State of Texas in this matter.
School library and education stakeholders should take heart in the fact that the 5th Circuit looked at the merit of the case, the structure of HB900, and Constitutional precedents in making their decision. We encourage these stakeholders to read and review our letter and engage with their local school boards to caution against administrative overreach. In the letter, the organizations state, “Districts have the responsibility to serve all students and provide instructional materials that reflect the breadth and depth of students’ lives.” In addition to pausing book ratings, the coalition also encourages school districts to return books and remove any imposed rating system they may have.
School districts must wait for further guidance from the courts or the Texas Education Agency (TEA) the before attempting to rate books in compliance with HB 900. We encourage school districts to avoid unconstitutional book bans, to return any preemptively removed books, and to protect students' right to read. The coalition stands ready to support superintendents in adhering to this guidance and protecting the constitutional rights of students.
EveryLibrary is proud to stand alongside Children’s Defense Fund of Texas, PEN America, ACLU of Texas Resource Center, Texas AFT, Students Engaged in Advancing Texas (SEAT), Defense of Democracy, the Texas Freedom to Read Project, IDRA, and Texas State Teachers Association in issuing the letter. EveryLibrary is supporting dozens of local library alliances and dedication coalitions as they campaign against censorship and for the rights of students to access their school libraries without fear. Please visit Fight for the First to take action in support of school and public libraries today.