newsEducation

Richardson parents clash over LGBTQ books in school libraries

Books including transgender, gender identity and other LGBTQ topics were added to the district’s library catalog, sparking heated debate among parents and staff.

12:52 p.m.: This story has been updated to include a statement from RISD Superintendent Jeannie Stone.

Parents argued over LGBTQ books that are available to students through Richardson school libraries during Monday night’s board meeting.

Some are critical that the district offers students the option to check out books about transgender issues or gender identity. But other parents and some Richardson ISD staff members said the books are important because they represent a diverse option for students.

Books related to gender identity and LGBTQ topics have been present in RISD libraries for a few years now, Superintendent Jeannie Stone said in a statement. As part of ongoing inclusiveness efforts, the district added more age-appropriate books on gender identity this school year, she said.

Parents brought up this issue after learning recently that the books have been available in RISD’s library catalog.

Stephanie Tyroch, a mother of two, told trustees that she was disappointed with the lack of communication to parents about such books being added to the district’s library catalogs.

Tyroch said she sends her children to RISD for learning in reading, writing and mathematics. Societal and political issues are to be taught at home, not in the classroom, she said.

“We need to refocus on education away from politics. We owe it to our children,” said Tyroch, who received a standing ovation from half of the crowd at the meeting.

Sarah Rice, a parent of two RISD students, said she heard about the books through word of mouth, rather than from district officials. After reaching out to the principal at her children’s school, Mohawk Elementary, she was pointed to a January email to parents about the books’ inclusion. Rice said the email was intentionally vague as to not draw attention to it.

Gender identity is harmful to children because it separates them from “biological reality” and replaces it with an “artificial social construct that is unscientific, untested and life altering,” Rice said.

“Parents have the duty to instill core values and identity in their children, not school officials,” she said.

But parent Kelli Vaughn-Hebert praised RISD for going above and beyond in its inclusiveness.

With kids spending a majority of their day around diverse classmates, they should be taught how to respect and appreciate students with different backgrounds, Vaughn-Hebert said.

Richardson resident Brandi Dawson noted that children’s books allow students to approach discussions on sensitive topics.

Books like Go Ask Alice, for example, have led to conversations about teen drug addiction while the Harry Potter series has led to discussion about religious beliefs and families, Dawson said. Other books in recent years have introduced students to the Black Lives Matter movement and to what it means to be transgender.

“We may not have the same belief system, but we all want what is best for our children, and resource options allow all of us to choose reading materials that meet our own family’s needs,” Dawson said.

Students are not required to read titles related to gender identity, and parents can contact their school library to prevent their children from checking out such books, Stone said. The district provides the books so students of all backgrounds have reading materials that represent them, she said.

The board took no action on the item as it was not on the agenda for Monday’s meeting.

During the meeting, Julie Briggs, director of library and information technology for RISD, told trustees the district’s Equity Council recently decided to keep the books in elementary libraries.

Research suggests that the longer transgender children are not recognized by the gender they identify with, the more significant and long-lasting negative consequences may occur, including drug abuse, poor mental health and suicide, Briggs said.

The district doesn’t want to push students into a belief system but wants to provide students with books that are diverse, balanced and representative of everyone, she said. The same policies that allow for LGBTQ representation in RISD’s libraries also allow for books about God, Briggs noted, adding that every student has unique needs.

“Together we can ensure that all students can find books that are good fit for them and their own families,” she said.

Stay connected to the latest in education by signing up for our weekly newsletter.

The DMN Education Lab deepens the coverage and conversation about urgent education issues critical to the future of North Texas.

The DMN Education Lab is a community-funded journalism initiative, with support from The Beck Group, Bobby and Lottye Lyle, The Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Dallas Regional Chamber, Deedie Rose, The Meadows Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network, Southern Methodist University and Todd A. Williams Family Foundation. The Dallas Morning News retains full editorial control of the Education Lab’s journalism.

Brayden Garcia, Staff writer. Brayden is an intern for the Education Lab. He previously was a freelance reporter covering Arlington. He graduated in May 2020 from the University of Texas at Arlington with a bachelors degree in journalism. He also worked at UTA's student run newspaper, The Shorthorn.

brayden.garcia@dallasnews.com bjgarcia27
Education Lab

Education Lab

Deepening coverage and conversations about issues affecting North Texas schools

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy