A Texas school district has removed the books of a children’s author and postponed a virtual event with him after a group of parents complained that he teaches using the principles of critical race theory.
Multiple news agencies reported this week that the Katy Independent School District, a jurisdiction of 89,000 students in a suburb of Houston, removed two graphic novels by Jerry Craft and postponed his Oct. 4 virtual appearance to elementary school students after 400 parents signed a Change.org petition that cited his books for violating a new state law against teaching the controversial legal and academic theory putting race and racial discrimination as driving forces in American history.
A spokesman for the school district told local television station KPRC, which first reported the story, that the books were removed “temporarily” after the petition. Another representative of the school district confirmed to NBC that Mr. Craft’s scheduled appearance to 5,000 invited students on Monday had been postponed.
The Texas law took effect Sept. 1 as part of an effort by Republican Governor Greg Abbott to remove from schools any curriculum that critics say presents U.S. history as a narrative of White supremacy.
The law specifically forbids teaching the idea that “an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”
One mother who signed the petition told KPRC that the books were “inappropriate instructional material” for her three children at a taxpayer-funded school.
“The books don’t come out and say, ‘We want White children to feel like oppressors,’ but that is absolutely what they will do,” Bonnie Anderson told the station.
The books in question, “New Kid” and a sequel titled “Class Act,” describe the fictional experiences of minority students making friends at a mostly-White private school.
Mr. Craft, an award-winning author and syndicated cartoonist, wrote in a statement on his website Wednesday that the books drew inspiration from his own experiences growing up as an African-American in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City.
“When I first set out to write and illustrate ‘New Kid,’ I knew there would be giant hurdles to overcome. But I was confident that I was the right person to create this book, for the simple reason that I had experienced many of the same things my protagonist Jordan Banks had,” Mr. Craft wrote.
In a tweet on Thursday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, declared the state’s intention to support parents who complain to their school boards about critical race theory under the new law.
“We will defend parents, and we will stand up for parents’ rights to speak out about what they think is the truth about critical race theory and other issues going on at their school,” Mr. Paxton wrote.
Mr. Paxton’s comments, echoed in an appearance on Fox Business that he linked in the tweet, came in response to a Monday announcement by the Biden administration Department of Justice that it would investigate “threats of violence” by parents who complain about critical race theory at school board meetings.