For years, kids have gone to school, cash in hand, to buy books from the Scholastic Book Fair -- which is why parents in the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District were so surprised when the district said the book fairs were canceled for further notice.
Sarah Powell, who volunteered at the fairs, says it’s heartbreaking.
"I got to see all the kids with their money ready and excited to come in with new things. It’s super sad to think they won’t have those opportunities," said Powell, a mother in the district.
The district told us by phone, that earlier this year students purchased books that were not age-appropriate, and they asked scholastic to give them an inventory of everything being sold. Scholastic couldn’t do that so they called off book fairs until they could get a new vendor.
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But NBC 5 obtained an email from the district’s deputy superintendent which says after a controversial social media post by one of Scholastic’s senior editors, the district called and had a conversation with the company and ultimately canceled their book fairs.
It is unclear for certain which post he was talking about, but the email was sent right after one of Scholastic’s editors posted about looking for authors writing about abortion in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court striking down Roe v. Wade. Those comments made headlines.
"That seems pretty obvious to me that was a reactionary decision," said Laura Leeman, a parent in GCISD. Leeman has been critical of many of the changes happening in the district. "The district has not been upfront about what’s going on with these books and making these decisions," she said.
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Recently elected school board members have vowed to rid the district of what they call objectionable content.
“We have thus far rooted out and eliminated over 18,500 different vendors from our schools, some of which poisoned the minds of our children," one board member wrote in a conservative publication this month.
NBC 5 also asked the school district about the deputy superintendent’s email and they again just pointed to their need to know what books would be sold and said the email was sent around the time they requested the inventory list.
They provided a copy of those comments in this statement:
"In the spring of 2022, there were books mis-merchandised by the vendor and students purchased books with content that was not age appropriate. After this occured and as a precaution, remaining book fairs were also put on hold for the end of the school year. In working with the vendor, we made requests to ensure that the sale of books that were not age appropriate would be avoided in the future. Those requests included that the vendor provide a comprehensive list of the books that would be for sale at the fairs 14 days in advance, and on June 28, we received a response that they could not yet offer assurances that they could comply with our expectations. The email you referenced was sent two days later on June 30. We believe the book fair is a positive experience for students and will continue working to ensure that we have book fairs on our campuses this year."
NBC 5 reached out to Scholastic, which provided this statement:
"We are disappointed that GCISD chose not to host Scholastic Book Fairs this fall, but hope to serve their students again in the future. Scholastic is excited to begin another year of hosting fairs across Texas, and we are as deeply committed as ever to work with our school partners.
When we were made aware of mis-merchandising during the fair experience, we of course immediately apologized and also investigated what more could be done to help avoid similar situations in future. Adult Bestsellers are included at the request of customers, so that teachers, volunteers, and the broader community can shop. Given the volume of shoppers browsing the book fair, titles are sometimes picked up, browsed, and mis-shelved.
For decades, parents and educators have trusted Scholastic to curate the best age-appropriate, high-interest books for kids at Scholastic Book Fairs which has become well-known as the “best day of the school year.” Every title found in a Scholastic Book Fair has been curated by a team of experts to ensure it meets the highest standards of our school communities. We provide a number of preview tools in advance of each fair for both the school and broader community; GCISD was looking for more detailed information than we had readily operationally available at the time, and we were actively working on a broader solution when they made their decision. We also offered to deliver the fair early so that they could personally review the selection/merchandising.
Scholastic Inc. has a number of divisions including trade publishing that releases hundreds of new and original, award-winning titles for all ages, up to Young Adult. An editor in this division shared a personal opinion about teen publishing on social media which was in no way referring to the content or curation at a Scholastic Book Fair."