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A coalition of Houston groups is pushing back against a decision to convert 28 school libraries into “team centers” often focused on student discipline following a state takeover of the state’s largest public school system.
As reported by USA Today and other news outlets, the new school board backed a plan by its new superintendent, Mike Miles, to close school libraries and eliminate librarian and media-specialist roles at troubled schools called New Education Schools, using the space for other purposes. During the school day students who act out in class could be sent to one of the centers where they could participate virtually in class, USA Today reported. Libraries would be open before and after school. Students could continue to check out books.
The Houston Independent School District, which has nearly 190,000 students, was taken over by the Texas Education Agency for poor performance.
“You cannot have a situation where you’re closing libraries for some schools in certain neighborhoods and there are other neighborhoods where there are libraries fully equipped,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said during a July 26 City Council meeting as reported by Houston Public Media. “What the hell are you doing?”
On July 29, according to ABC 13 in Houston, a protest rally was held led by Congressman Al Green, elected state officials, the Houston Federation of Teachers, and the local NAACP chapter.
The controversy comes at a time when school library books and the roles of school librarians face attacks across the country. Conservative critics claim libraries are too “woke” and make inappropriate material available, particularly about race, sexuality and gender roles, and especially to younger children. Supporters say such concerns are drastically overblown and libraries are among schools’ most important resources.
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