Education

'Speech Police': Hood County Law Enforcement Investigates 'Porn' in Granbury ISD Library

Photo by Fred Kearney on Unsplash
Texas Republicans are getting slammed over their efforts to ban certain school library books.
If you ask certain Texas conservatives, school libraries have a porn problem — one that local police are more than willing to investigate. Last week, Frisco ISD officials pushed back against claims that the district has been too lax on weeding out risqué materials. Librarians have been accused of being pedophiles and harassed over controversial books.

Now, law enforcement in Hood County has launched an investigation following complaints over certain Granbury ISD library books.

On Friday, First Amendment lawyer Adam Steinbaugh tweeted that he'd requested records on why Hood County officers had gone to a high school library about books. He learned that some of the information he'd requested related to an active criminal investigation and would therefore be withheld.

Steinbaugh noted that the two complainants listed in the police report didn't like that a book review committee had moved to return dozens of books to school shelves. He also posted video that appears to show one of the complainants admitting that her own kids don’t go to school there.
If Hood County officers are in fact investigating what titles people check out, then they're essentially serving as the "speech police," Steinbaugh told the Observer. When police are dispatched to investigate books, that's going to have a chilling effect.

"It's sending the message that librarians should be afraid about what's in their collections," he said, "and that if something is in their collection that other people find offensive, that might not just lead to the book being pulled from the shelves, it might lead to criminal prosecution.

"Librarians don’t sign up to go to jail for the right to read," he continued. "They shouldn't have to, anyway."

"It's sending the message that librarians should be afraid about what's in their collection." - Adam Steinbaugh, FIRE

tweet this
Law enforcement officers have been sent to look into supposedly pornographic books in other parts of the state. Last year, police in the Austin suburb of Leander were contacted to investigate a book found in campus libraries: Lawn Boy, a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age tale.

But Texas isn't entirely unique in this way. Board members in a Florida district have pondered whether they could get slapped with felony charges if they return books to school libraries that feature "sexually explicit content."

In Hood County, one of the complainants had apparently spoken at a school board meeting last week. NBC's Mike Hixenbaugh noted that the woman said the district's book review committee needed "people of good moral standards," and that there were too many librarians on it.

"Repentance is the word that's on my heart," she said.

The woman also recommended that a local pastor serve on the book review committee.

"You don't have to have these ultra-controversial books in your library," she added, "and literally, you have thousands of books. So, what harm is it to let go of some of them?"

Steinbaugh believes that if police are going to look into purportedly obscene books, they should at least have the decency to tell the community which ones they're investigating. Still, the legal standard for obscenity is very narrow, and he would be surprised if porn were actually found in schools.

Speaking with the Observer late last year, two North Texas librarians adamantly denied that school libraries offer porn.

Some parents may not like all the material found in school libraries, Steinbaugh said. They might even think that some content is inappropriate for their kids to check out. "But you can't prevent other people from making that decision," he said. "It is the choice of the student and their parents about what book they want to read."