Some Keller residents are expressing concern after city officials asked the public library to remove a social media post highlighting Banned Books Week.
Laney Hawes is the mother of four Keller ISD students and has been involved in the debate over banning certain books from schools. In August, Keller Independent School District ordered principals to remove from schools shelves dozens of books that had been challenged by parents and community members since last fall.
“No one wants children to have content that they’re not ready for, but here’s the thing. We all have different children. Every family is different. Every child is different,” Hawes said. “The one message I keep sharing at every school board I’ve spoken at … I get up and I share, ‘Listen. We cannot be making decisions here for all students. I get to make the decision for my student … and what they can read. You get to make the decision for your children and what your children can read.’”
Hawes said she was pleased to see the Keller Public Library share a post on social media promoting Banned Books Week. It listed the top 10 most challenged books of 2021.
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The post was later removed.
“City leadership was concerned that residents would think we were trying to cause controversy, given recent debates about books in the school district, so we removed it as that was certainly not the intent,” an email from a Keller city spokesperson read. “We still invite our residents to celebrate Banned Books Week with us at the library this week, as we do every year.”
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Hawes said she felt the city’s decision to remove the post invited more controversy.
“I’m not sure how they thought they would not invite controversy,” she said. “Our first amendment rights have always been somewhat controversial, right? That’s what we’re here fighting for.”
Haley Taylor Schlitz, of Keller, called the decision an overreach. Schlitz made headlines in May when she graduated from Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law at the age of 19. Schlitz now teaches government to students between the 7th and 12th grades.
“It’s enraging and that’s just putting it gently,” she said, referring to the post's removal, adding that it was an example of censorship.
“Censoring our public library from talking about the books they offer, talking about events that are impacting their books, impacting their institution and censoring them on the content they’re saying, is completely unconstitutional,” she said. “This is, again, our public library. They have a right to be able to discuss their books, discuss this event, discuss what’s impacting them, what’s impacting their citizens … even if it’s controversial.”
A spokesperson for the city of Keller sent NBC 5 the following statement on behalf of Keller Mayor Armin Mizani:
“The City of Keller has had a long-standing practice of avoiding posts on the city organization’s social media accounts that can be interpreted as political statements. This issue has been a hotly debated topic within the broader Keller community, our area school districts, and throughout the state. Off the heels of that discussion, a post made by our public library was unfortunately interpreted as a political statement by the city about this ongoing debate. Our award-winning team of librarians has worked hard to make our public library a place for community and coming together, and throughout the day, it became clear that some were using the post to divide us further. As such, the decision was ultimately made to take the social media post down. As Mayor, I respect the views of all our residents. Although the post was pulled due to our long-standing practice, the Keller Public Library still welcomes residents to check out books we may have in circulation.”
WHAT IS BANNED BOOKS WEEK?
Banned Books Week is an annual event that highlights historical attempts to censor books in public libraries in schools while also celebrating the freedom to read.
Organizers said the event was first launched in 1982 "in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries."