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Mother of LGBTQ Keller ISD student voices concern after district suddenly pulls dozens of books before school begins

Keller ISD pulled 41 books on Tuesday to face review under new policies that were passed at a board meeting last week. Many were approved after reviews last year.

KELLER, Texas — The Keller Independent School District is now in the national spotlight after suddenly pulling 41 books from campus library shelves to be reviewed right before school started. 

The books had been challenged by either a community member or a district parent last school year. 

The list of 41 books includes all versions of the Bible and "Anne Frank's Diary: The Graphic Adaption." The full list can be seen here. 

Gretchen Veling, the mother of a student within Keller ISD who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community, told WFAA that she's struggling to trust the district where her son has grown up. 

Veling's son, Harry, began his senior year on Wednesday, one day after the books were pulled. 

She also has another son who is gay, already graduated from the district and is attending college in New York. 

"I'm frustrated, but honestly, I'm not surprised," Veling said. "I feel like we're raising our kids in a homophobic area, and that's just the facts." 

In a statement, the district said the books were being removed in order to review them under new policies that were approved by the school board during a meeting on Aug. 8.

Most of the books on the list had previously been approved to stay in school libraries after being reviewed by a committee last school year.

Tuesday's move comes as districts statewide face library book challenges and audits which have become a priority for some Republican lawmakers wanting to do away with books that touch on sex, gender or race. 

In May of this year, Keller ISD was one of the districts where hundreds of thousands of dollars were dumped into fiery school board races. 

Three new conservative-leaning candidates are on the board as a result. 

One of the books challenged last year but placed back into campus libraries after a review was "Flamer" by Mike Curato, a graphic novel about a young man heading into high school and realizing he's gay.

"You see bullying in the book and acceptance," Veling said.

"A librarian could understand a student is struggling and say, you know what? Here's a book that you will feel seen in, and it deals with some of the things that you're going through," she said.

Veling just so happened to wind up on a committee of parents, administrators, and teachers reviewing the book after it was challenged in November of 2021.

Veling said there were thoughtful conversations between the entire group, some she didn't fully expect in such a conservative community. 

"One of the people in the room was a straight male, and he said he wished he had read the book in middle school," Veling said. 

"The reason why because he said he saw himself as the bully in the book."

Now that the book has to be re-reviewed, Veling said those thoughtful discussions and conversations feel like they're going down the drain. 

"The board is unhappy that us parents found out about this as quickly as we did," Veling said. As for that national spotlight? 

"They're getting what they want, which doesn't have anything to do with the kids inside these schools...it doesn't have anything to do with them," Veling said. 

The next Keller ISD School Board meeting is on Aug. 22.

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