Republicans hold America’s reddest large urban constituency in Tarrant County, Texas. The locals consider its seat, Fort Worth, a “Mecca for conservatives.” If any place in America should be beyond the reach of progressivism, it is these 900 square miles of Lone Star land. And yet, a recent incident within the Keller Independent School District has revealed cracks in the red paint of Texas’ conservative Potemkin village.
On Oct. 26, Kathy May, a mother of four children in the district, tweeted pictures from Gender Queer: a Memoir, a book found in the library of Timber Creek High School. The illustrated novel shows young people participating in sexual activity, aptly described by parents as hardcore pornography of underage queer sex. “I moved here from California to get away from this,” May said.
As parents militated, the school district issued a weak statement that copped to stupidity rather than malice: “There was no indication from the book’s description that it contained graphic illustrations.” In other words, not a single librarian and or administrator had actually peeked at the pages. Little wonder why “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach” turned out to be a losing slogan for Virginia Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe.
In the end, the school removed the book from its shelves. But parents are still angry; some are even pushing for legislation to criminally prosecute library and school officials who expose their children to sexually explicit material. They don’t believe that Gender Queer’s circulation was accidental because this is not the first incident.
South of Keller, the Lake Travis Independent School District recently banned Ashley Perez’s book Out of Darkness after parents discovered that it contained graphic descriptions of anal sex between teenagers. The novel blends Critical Race Theory—the characters live in the snares of a cruel white society—and literary pornography. The book was available in at least two Texas middle schools, Hudson Bend and Bee Cave. An upset mother read explicit passages from the book during a COVID-related school board meeting, and it was only after video of her speech went viral that administrators were pressured to act.
Parents believe they have few institutional allies in the war for the hearts and minds of their kids. Republican politicians like to provide comments and issue strongly worded letters once a story makes headlines. But when the media doesn’t care, it seems that neither do they. Kris Kittle can’t even get Republican officials to return her calls. The mother of a Keller school district student, Kittle is also an adjunct professor at Dallas Baptist University with a Ph.D. in higher education.
Kittle began homeschooling recently, and the way things are going doesn’t encourage her to place her daughter back in the classroom. According to Kittle, neither Sen. Kelly Hancock (R) nor Rep. Matt Krause (R) have answered several attempts to contact them. “None of them are talking about it.” Tarrant County GOP Chair Rick Barnes seems equally mum about an issue that has parents in an uproar.
To be sure, Gov. Greg Abbott wrote a letter, which was preceded by Krause’s letter announcing an “inquiry” that may or may not actually exist or have any teeth. Kittle and other parents think it’s all bark and no bite. For Republican action to be consistent with Republican rhetoric, they’d call a special session, she said. Despite a flood of emails from parents, however, “they downright refuse to do so.”
While the Texas GOP continues to dawdle, school boards are raising armies to enforce their policies. That’s not hyperbole. Officers from the Round Rock Independent School District (RRISD) Police Department recently arrested two parents.
The arrests followed two separate incidents, CBS-affiliate KTVN reported. In the first case, Dustin Clark, a father and retired Army Captain, told the board that it was illegal for them to pass an unlawful tax increase while district police arbitrarily locked parents out of the meeting. In the second, Jeremy Story, a minister and father of seven, produced evidence that the board had covered up an alleged assault by the superintendent, Hafedh Azaiez, against a mistress. Story was physically prevented from finishing his remarks by police officers operating under orders from the school board president and the superintendent.
The day after the district claims they received Story’s formal legal grievance, he and Clark were simultaneously arrested at their homes, KTVN reported. Both were charged with “disorderly conduct with intent to disrupt a meeting” and jailed overnight at the Williamson County Jail. When NBC-affiliate KXAN asked both the Round Rock board and the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office why a warrant was issued for the two parents instead of a citation, they referred reporters to the RRISD Police Department, even though court documents show the sheriff’s office was the arresting agency. In short, a school district’s police department coordinated with the sheriff’s department to arrest parents at their homes under orders from a school board.
Danielle Weston was elected to Round Rock’s school board last November as an “advocate for basic American values,” but since Sept. 20 she has been fighting the resolutions of her fellow board members to strip her of the duties and powers bestowed upon her by voters for being a dissident. She says her legal defense has been costly and that Texas Republicans are nowhere to be found. “I can’t get anywhere with my state senator, or Greg Abbott,” she told me, referring to Republican State Sen. Charles Schwertner. “I told his office, I know Schwertner’s chief of staff, and she said, ‘Danielle, we don’t get involved in politics.’”
Statements like that would normally raise a long laugh for their absurdity. But they come at a time when parents across the country are under siege for the crime of protecting their children from radical ideologies and the abusive functionaries overseeing the education system. Even in Republican-controlled Texas.
Flickr-LBJ Library, Public Domain