In early January, a day before students returned from winter break, Jeremy Glenn, the superintendent of the Granbury Independent School District in North Texas, told a group of librarians he’d summoned to a district meeting room that he needed to speak from his heart.
“I want to talk about our community,” Glenn said, according to a recording of the Jan. 10 meeting obtained and verified by NBC News, ProPublica and The Texas Tribune. Glenn explained that Granbury, the largest city in a county where 81% of residents voted for then-President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, is “very, very conservative.”
He noted that members of Granbury’s school board — his bosses — were also very conservative. And to any school employees who might have different political beliefs, Glenn said, “You better hide it,” adding, “Here in this community, we’re going to be conservative.”
That’s why, he said, he needed to talk to them about some of the books available in the school district’s libraries.
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Then, without a hint of irony, he goes on to say:
“In Granbury and across Texas we are seeing parents push back and demand elected officials put safeguards in place to protect their children from materials that serve no academic purpose, but rather push a political narrative, As a result, classrooms and libraries have turned schools into battle grounds for partisan politics.”
He also made it clear that his concerns specifically included books with LGBTQ themes, even if they do not describe sex. Those comments, according to legal experts, raise concerns about possible violations of the First Amendment and federal civil rights laws that protect students from discrimination based on their gender and sexuality.
Over the next two weeks, the school district embarked on one of the largest book removals in the country, pulling about 130 titles from library shelves for review. Nearly three-quarters of the removed books featured LGBTQ characters or themes, according to a ProPublica and Texas Tribune analysis. Others dealt with racism, sex ed, abortion and women’s rights.
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In his recorded comments to librarians, Glenn described the review of 130 titles as the first step in a broader appraisal of library content, and a new policy approved by the school board later in January grants him and other administrators broad authority to unilaterally remove additional titles they deem inappropriate, with no formal review and no way for the public to easily find out what has been pulled from shelves. Thus allowing him to politicize the content of school libraries. The very thing he tried to argue against.
Legal, education and First Amendment experts contacted by ProPublica, NBC News and the Tribune said the audio of the superintendent, combined with the decision to abruptly remove books from circulation, even temporarily, raises constitutional concerns.