More than 800 books banned across 22 Texas school districts

A new report from PEN America shows that Texas has banned more books in school libraries than any other state. 

The report found that 801 books had been banned across 22 Texas school districts. Some commonly removed titles include "Genderqueer", "Roe V. Wade: A Woman's Choice" and "All Boys Aren't Blue." 

Katie Naranjo, the chair of the Travis County Democratic Party, and Matt Mackowiak, the chair of the Travis County Republican Party, join FOX 7 Austin's Mike Warren to discuss.


Mike Warren: Matt, beginning with you. Were all these bans warranted?

Matt Mackowiak: Well, according to the elected leaders at the state level that began this process. They obviously want to be sure that children are not getting access in our schools to material that's not appropriate for their age. And fundamentally, this comes down to parental rights. You know, if parents want their children reading these books, they can do that at home. It's not the responsibility of the taxpayer or the school district to make every single book that's ever been written available to every child who's in kindergarten or first grade or second grade. Ultimately, if you don't like what a school district's doing, you can get involved in school board elections. You can write your superintendent, you can get involved with your PTA. But the state does have an interest here. And ultimately, the state leaders have decided that taking this action to protect parental rights, to keep inappropriate material out of the hands of small children. They believe that's the right, the right, the right path forward.

Mike Warren: All right, Katie Penn, America found that these bands have been pushed by groups formed to combat what they deem pornographic and CRT materials in schools. What do you make of that?

Katie Naranjo: The reality is, is that we have elected officials at state as well as the Republican Party who wants to whitewash history. They don't believe racism exists. They don't believe slavery existed. And they sure as heck don't want students reading about our past as a nation. And if we do not learn from our past, then we are doomed to repeat it. I'm very surprised by the Republican Party and by Republican leadership. They used to be a party of local control. And that's not the case here. Now, they want to dictate a doctrine from state leaders down to the school board and to the libraries dictating what people can and can't do. That includes mask bans and making sure that we have scientifically based health care being provided in schools or in there when we're in the middle of a pandemic. The same situation is here with banned books. It's no longer about local control. It's about state overreach and whitewashing history.

Mike Warren: Matt Mackowiak, is the banning of books inherently anti-free speech? 

Matt Mackowiak: Well, again, you're not banning books from existing. You're not banning books from someone being able to purchase them. You're banning them from schools where small children can get access to them. That's what it's about. And I don't know, Katie just tried to make a point. I think she made the opposite point unintentionally. There is local control here, Katie. The school boards are the ones making the decisions. So, you know, I appreciate you making the case for local control unintentionally. Again, this is a question about parental rights and children. I don't know any Republican that doesn't believe racism exists. I don't know any Republican, you know, who believes slavery didn't exist. So those are ridiculous things to say, Katie. And I hope you take them back. What I do know is teaching children that they are born racist is not something that Texans want. Teaching children, you know, extreme, you know, sort of gender theories and things like that when they're very, very young is not only illegal, but it's also something most parents don't want. And so ultimately, it's about bringing this back to the middle where parental were, where parents have rights, but where we also protect free speech as much as we possibly can.

Katie Naranjo: Do you believe the words that are actually coming out of your mouth? The reality is, is that you're now trying to take the state and get rid of local control. And while, yes, I do believe in local control, I don't believe in banning books. And that's what the Republican Party is trying to do. You want to say that you're not racist? When I say that you believe racism exists, then why are you afraid for somebody to read about it in a book? What have books done that scare Republicans so much?

Mike Warren: Okay. Well, it's a big question. I've got to cut you off, Matt, because we are running out of time, but we can hopefully pick it up later some time. Katie, Matt, thank you both very much.