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 claiming the subject matter 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 2020 Newberry Medal, 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 at a new school where diversity is low and the struggle to fit in is real” and as a laugh-out-loud funny, powerful, and important story about being one of the few kids of color in a prestigious private school”.
According to the website, Universal Pictures has acquired film rights to New Kid, with LeBron James’ The Spring Hill Company on board to develop and produce.
A flyer sent out at the start of the school year touted Craft’s Oct. 4 virtual visit with 3rd through 5th graders at Roosevelt Alexander Elementary school.
An amended flyer sent to parents Friday said parents and guardians could opt their students out of the visit.
A district spokeswoman told KPRC 2 as of Monday, 30 parents had opted out.
But that option came just as a now-deleted petition on Change.org began circulating calling on the district to cancel the virtual visit and ban the books.
“It is inappropriate instructional material,” said parent Bonnie Anderson, a former candidate for Katy ISD school board and a party in a lawsuit against the district’s mask mandate.
Anderson says the petition garnered 500 signatures before she says it was taken down for violating the Change.org community guidelines.
“They are pointed at white children displaying microaggressions to children of color. The books don’t come out and say, ‘we want white children to feel like oppressors’, but that is absolutely what they will do,” Anderson said.
Omar Sanchez said her two children, who are bi-racial, were already fans of the books and that her son especially could relate to the books’ theme of struggling to fit in. She told KPRC 2 her children were looking forward to the virtual visit with an author who “looks like them”.
Sanchez was disappointed by the petition and the district’s handling of the situation.
“They want to live in this bubble. They’re uncomfortable with touching the subject. They’re uncomfortable knowing that they’re part of the problem,” Sanchez said.
In September, Governor Greg Abbott signed into law a bill banning the teaching of critical race theory in K-12 public schools.
“A teacher may not teach that an individual by virtue of the individual’s sex or race is inherently racist sexist or oppressive,” said bill co-author, Republican Representative Steve Toth of The Woodlands in a May interview with KPRC 2.
Scholars said critics have critical race theory all wrong.
“Critical race theory is definitely not about teaching white kids that they are inherently racist. It’s really more so about understanding how institutional racism is instituted in society, organizations, and government,” said Darius Benton, an assistant professor at the University of Houston Downtown who contributed to a book about critical race theory in 2021.
Craft did not respond to KPRC 2′s requests for comment, but in a tweet replying to parents asking why his visit was canceled and his books potentially banned, he replied with questions marks, a shrugging shoulders emoji, and wrote, “apparently I’m teaching 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:
“Per Katy ISD policy, instructional day activities are put on hold until the review occurs. The author has been invited to present outside of the instructional day and the District is working on that now.”