(New York, NY) — Today, PEN America denounced North East ISD, one of the largest school districts in Texas, for removing access to more than 400 books while responding to a request from state lawmakers. The restriction is inconsistent with existing policies in the district for reviewing books in school libraries when they are challenged. 

“Students deserve access to a wide range of books in school libraries; not to have that access removed at the behest of politicians,” said Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education at PEN America. “This is a predictable and unfortunate outcome of the recent demonization of schools, libraries, and literature in the state, which stands to impede students’ learning and imagination. Hopefully, North East ISD district leaders will realize that, and stand up for their students’ right to read. The district should restore access to these books without delay and respond to any future challenges in line with existing district policies.”

In October, Texas State Representative Matt Krause initiated an investigation of whether any of the books on a list of 850 titles are available to students in Texas school districts. Krause sent a letter asking some districts to report on whether they have any of the books, how many copies they have, and how much money was spent on acquiring them. The titles on the list mainly address topics of race, sexuality, and gender, and come at a time when books addressing these issues are being challenged in schools across Texas