MCKINNEY, Texas — School districts across Texas have been thrust into a number of debates because of the pandemic.
And while most of the mask and social distancing debates have quieted down, the latest efforts to ban sexually explicit books has heated up.
"I've been the face of this movement for the last six months," said state Rep. Jared Patterson, of District 106. The district covers Frisco, Denton, The Colony and surrounding areas.
Patterson tells WFAA he and his staff have sent letters asking Texas school districts to pledge not to do business with certain book vendors. Thirty districts have signed the pledge.
Patterson says that Frisco, Prosper and McKinney school districts have not.
"I'm not blaming any specific librarian or teacher. I think the book vendors need to be held accountable for selling this trash," said Patterson.
McKinney ISD on Friday released a strong statement from Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel: "The school library book debate has been largely fueled by political agendas, sensationalism, and exaggeration."
"It's an accurate statement, there is a procedure," said McKinney Mayor George Fuller.
Fuller says the district has procedures on challenging books. Fuller, a Republican, calls these efforts to ban sexually explicit books "partisan pandering."
Fuller says he will be the first to challenge books he deems too graphic and not appropriate for children. But, he says these latest efforts by some lawmakers and groups are not entirely about protecting children.
"The courage is to stand up and say this is a political endeavor to turn out the vote in November," Fuller said.
Patterson tells WFAA he's disappointed in some conservative leadership and he's calling out school boards. He says there are more than two dozen sexually explicit books on school shelves right now.
Patterson says that it took him five minutes to identify online a book on McKinney ISD shelves that is sexually explicit. Patterson encourages Superintendent McDaniel to read aloud the graphic passages from the book at the next board meeting.
Patterson says that he and two full-time staff members cannot keep up on the number of messages from parents complaining about books that are explicit.
"This is a political movement because the policy makers aren't taking this seriously," said Patterson.
McKinney ISD says over the last 10 years, only five books have been challenged and not one book has been challenged currently. McDaniel wrote in a letter to parents that many of the books recited in school board meetings are not on McKinney school shelves.
"Even though school library books are being used as a political ploy to rile voters up in advance of the upcoming elections, it is important to recognize that our teachers and library media specialists take great measures to ensure that library resources are safe and appropriate for students," the letter stated. "Parents always have the right to determine what is appropriate for their child and can provide librarians with a list of books or topics that their child is not permitted to access."
"What is happening now, weaponizing our children and our teachers and the collateral damage that's being done to the teaching profession, is hurting our students," said Fuller.
Patterson hopes in six months to file legislation for 2023 that would hold districts accountable and create an online database that would allow tax-payers to see which books are on the shelves.