KATY — Katy Independent School District said they have “temporarily” removed books by an award-winning children’s author from their library shelves after an outcry from parents who claimed the topic promotes critical race theory.
Jerry Craft is the writer and illustrator of “New Kid” and its sequel “Class Act”.
He is the winner of the Newberry Medal 2020, the Coretta Scott King Author Award and the Kirkus Prize.
Craft’s website describes the books, which feature young black boys, as an “honest graphic novel about starting over in a new school where diversity is low and the struggle to belong is real” and as a laughably funny, powerful and important story about one of the few colored children in a prestigious private school”.
According to the website, Universal Pictures has acquired film rights for: New child, with LeBron James’ The Spring Hill Company on board to develop and produce.
A flyer sent out at the beginning of the school year praised Craft’s October 4 virtual visit with 3rd through 5th graders at Roosevelt Alexander Elementary school.
An amended flyer sent to parents on Friday said parents and guardians could unsubscribe their students from the visit.
A district spokeswoman told KPRC 2 on Monday that 30 parents had opted out.
But that option came just as a now-deleted petition began circulating on Change.org calling on the district to cancel the virtual visit and ban the books.
“It’s inappropriate teaching material,” said parent Bonnie Anderson, a former candidate for the Katy ISD school board and a party to a lawsuit against the district’s mask mandate.
Anderson says the petition garnered 500 signatures before saying it was being removed for violating Change.org’s Community Guidelines.
“They are aimed at white children who show micro-aggressions towards colored children. The books don’t come out and say, ‘we want white kids to feel like oppressors,’ but that’s definitely what they will do,” Anderson said.
Omerly Sanchez said her two children, who are bi-racial, were already fans of the books and that her son especially liked the theme of the books, struggling to fit in. She told KPRC 2 that her kids were looking forward to the virtual visit with an author who “looks like them.”
Sanchez was disappointed with the petition and the district’s handling of the situation.
“They want to live in this bubble. They feel uncomfortable touching the subject. They don’t feel comfortable knowing they’re part of the problem,” Sanchez says.
In September, Governor Greg Abbott signed a law banning the teaching of critical race theory in public schools.
“A teacher should not teach that a person is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive because of their gender or race,” Bill co-author, Republican Representative Steve Toth of The Woodlands, said in a May interview with KPRC 2.
Scholars said critics have got the critical race theory all wrong.
“Critical race theory is definitely not about teaching white children that they are inherently racist. It’s more about understanding how institutional racism is being introduced into society, organizations and government,” said Darius Benton, an assistant professor at the University of Houston Downtown, who contributed to a 2021 book on critical race theory.
Craft did not respond to KPRC 2’s requests for comment, but in a tweet asking parents why his visit was canceled and his books may have been banned, he replied with question marks, a shrug emoji, and wrote: “apparently I’m teaching in critical race theory.”
The district said they will review the books and make a decision within the next 15 days.
In a statement to KPRC 2, Katy ISD spokesperson Laura Davis wrote:
“Under Katy ISD policy, daytime educational activities are suspended until the assessment takes place. The author has been invited to present outside the class day and the district is now working on that.”
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