Leander ISD Number One in Challenged Books

Priyunka Maheshwari

   According to a new report by the San Antonio Express-News, Leander ISD is the number one district in Texas for challenged books.

   “A challenged book is a book that has been requested by usually a parent or teacher to be removed from the shelves. Vandegrift does not have any banned books, but we have had one challenge over the past two years,” Mrs. Lopez, the Vandegrift librarian said.

   In the 2009-2010 school year, the series Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar were challenged by a parent. The reason for the challenge was sexual content, drugs and alcohol use, and language.

   Challenged books undergo a long review. First, a petition is filed for the book to be challenged. The petition must include a reason for the book being challenged, the result of students reading the book(s), and an alternative source for the information provided in the book(s). The petition is then reviewed by a board comprised usually of a parent, a teacher, and out-of-district administrators. The book(s) under challenge are read by the entire board so that a decision can be made to determine whether the content in the books is educational or harmful to students.

   In the case of the Gossip Girl series, the books challenged were not removed from shelves, as the review board found the material to be acceptable for students. Leander ISD has had a total of 10 challenged books, of which only one was removed.

    Challenged books in Leander ISD are most often in elementary schools. Jim Plain Elementary and Westside Elementary have each challenged two books, which include Halloween by Jerry Seinfeld and Beyond the Grave by Judith Herbst. Reasons for challenging the books include offensive language, and mature content. Two of the challenges in Leander ISD have nothing to do with the content of the books, and were requested to be removed because of cover art. Vandegrift is the only high school in Leander ISD to challenge a book.

   ‘Banned books’ has become a controversy over whether or not students should be allowed to read freely, or if censorship is acceptable in cases of literature.

   “The genre of young adult or teen lit increasingly does try to deal with real life in many ways,” Dotty Griffith, public education director for the ACLU of Texas, told the San Antonio Express news. “I think there is a desire to shield kids from some of the tougher situations, but if young people weren’t being confronted with certain kinds of situations, there wouldn’t be books about them.”