Montgomery County, TX – Every week we hear stories of more and more parents that are becoming aware of the dangers that are quietly lurking in their school libraries. In May of 2022, Texas mom Darla O’Guin’s son came home with an instructional reading assignment for the semi-autobiographical novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower. After prescreening the book before her son read it, Ms. O’Guin was shocked to learn that the book was full of what can only be described as pervasively vulgar material. The book, which was available to middle and high school students, contains repeated descriptions of sexual encounters, sexual violence and abuse, masturbation, bestiality, pedophilia, drug and alcohol abuse, and even gives a description on how to rape someone who is intoxicated.
Following a Conroe Independent School District (CISD) policy regarding challenging instructional materials, Ms. O’Guin filed a formal grievance with Oak Ridge High School. In her grievance she requested that her son not be forced to read the book; that it should be removed as an instructional reading assignment for all students; and finally, that the book be taken out of circulation from all CISD libraries. After a review by a Book Reconsideration Committee, that included a librarian and a teacher who currently uses the book as instructional material, the committee permitted her son to be exempt from reading it. However, they allowed the book to remain in high school libraries and as instructional material in classrooms.
After this unsatisfactory response from the Reconsideration Committee, Ms. O’Guin then filed an appeal and enlisted the help of Texas Representative Steve Toth. A virtual hearing was conducted with school officials, their attorney Richard Morris, and County Citizens Defending Freedom (CCDF-USA) attorney, Jonathan Hullihan. This hearing resulted in the book being removed as part of curriculum, but still allowed the book to remain on library shelves and in teacher’s classroom libraries.
Understanding that school library materials should not include “harmful material” as defined by Penal Code 43.24(a)(2) or “obscene” material as defined by Penal Code 43.21(a)(1), a second appeal was submitted by Ms. O’Guin. This final appeal allowed for a representative for CISD, Richard Morris, and a representative for Ms. O’Guin, Jonathan Hullihan, to appeal directly to the CISD Board of Trustees. After a very lengthy discussion, and many comments from community members at the Board of Trustees’ January 17, 2023 meeting, the Board voted to remove The Perks of Being a Wallflower from classroom libraries and provide CISD parents with the ability to opt their child out of having access to the book in school libraries. The Board also agreed to consider whether their policy should be revised in future to require parents to “opt-in” or “opt-out” of access to library books.
Members of the Board commented on the content of the book as they reviewed it in preparation for the hearing. President Skeeter Hubert remarked that while the book addresses some topics that are relevant to students in their district, many of the serious issues they face, such as drug addiction and overdose, as well as the lack of accountability and serious consequences for the character’s poor decisions are not addressed, which he found unacceptable. Mr. Datren Williams, Board Secretary, who did not find any issues with the book, found value in the book and stated that it “got him thinking”. He remarked during the meeting that he wants his kids to “have a free for all” and at another point stated that he wants them to read this book. The issue with removing this book, according to Mr. Williams, is whether others should subject their beliefs on “what I want my kids have access to.” He was very vocal in his opposition to removing this book from school shelves.
CCDF-USA would like to extend our gratitude towards the members of the CISD Board of Trustees who voted to uphold Texas statutes, to respect parental rights, and who want to protect their students from harmful and obscene materials in their schools.