(New York, NY) — Leander ISD, a Texas school district near Austin, announced yesterday that it will ban 11 books from being accessible in classroom libraries. PEN America decries this decision as an unwarranted exercise in censorship.

“The Leander school board’s decision to remove access to certain books for all students, based on the demands of some parents, is a profound disappointment,” said Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education at PEN America. “The entire process has been unusual, opaque, and worrying — more about appeasing sensitive parents than serving student learners. One cannot deny that the books on the chopping block all deal with LGBTQ+ issues, sex, and racism and that they were singled out because of these themes.” 

The decision comes at the end of a year-long review of 120 optional reading choices in the district’s new ELA curriculum, which was initiated by the district in response to some parents’ complaints about some of the books when the new curriculum was initially adopted. The curricular review has been plagued by questions about inconsistencies in how books were vetted, a lack of transparency about how decisions were made, and the fundamental issue of why the district backtracked and launched such a sweeping review of the entire curriculum after it had been adopted. Though many of the books are still currently accessible in some school libraries, at least two of the titles will now effectively be inaccessible — Brave Face: A Memoir by Shaun David Hutchinson and In the Dream House: A Memoir by Carmen Maria Machado (a full list of the removed books is below).

“Students in Leander deserve access to literature that reflects diverse identities and life experiences, and that exposes them to the real world, rather than have it all stripped away from them in an act of censorship,” Friedman continued. “District leaders now say they are going to stick by policies and processes with future book complaints. “Let’s hope that they do a better job of that than they have in the past year and can withstand future attempts to intimidate them into banning books.”

PEN America has led a campaign against the removal of these books since earlier this year, questioning the need to ban books that were already optional reading choices for students. In April, PEN America sent a letter to the leaders of the school district, co-signed by 25 authors, illustrators, and contributors, as well as the PEN America Children’s and Young Adult Books Committee. 

The following books will be removed from the reading choice curriculum and classroom libraries.

  • Brave Face: A Memoir by Shaun David Hutchinson 
  • The Handmaid’s Tale The Graphic Novel by Margaret Atwood and Renee Nault
  • In the Dream House A Memoir by Carmen Maria Machado
  • None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio 
  • The Nowhere Girls by Amy Lynn Reed
  • Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez
  • Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” The Authorized Graphic Adaptation by Myles Hyman
  • Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • V is for Vendetta by Alan Moore
  • Y: The Last Man Book One by Brian K. Vaughan