Majority of Texans want ratings on school library books – The Dallas Morning News

Majority of Texans want ratings on school library books – The Dallas Morning News

The majority of Texans want a “content rating” – similar to what’s used for movies – on books sold to public schools to help establish what is appropriate for children, according to a new poll from the University of Houston.

Fights over library books erupted in late 2021 and continue to gain steam. Conservatives express outrage at the idea that books with sexual content were available in schools while free-speech advocates worry that limits on books could restrict children’s access to diverse stories.

Texans are mostly open to a rating idea.

The University of Houston poll – which surveyed 1,200 adults online in January – found 71% of respondents support requiring book publishers to include a content rating based on whether the title is appropriate for young children or older students.

“Of course, the devil is always going to be in the details of who determines the content ratings,” said Mark Jones, a Rice University professor who co-authored the poll report.

Already, Texas lawmakers want to toughen school library standards.

Frisco Republican Rep. Jared Patterson filed legislation that he says is intended to rid school libraries of explicit books and require vendors to rate titles that involve sexual content. A bill from Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress, would prohibit a publisher from selling a book to a public school unless it had an age-appropriate content rating attached.

Such efforts to rate books were quickly derided by free speech advocates who are closely monitoring Texas’ crackdown on books, specifically those that focus on LGBTQ stories and center Black characters.

Books probed by a Texas lawmaker by women, people of color, LGBTQ writers. They’re asking: ‘Really?’

“A ratings system like that proposed in this bill would concentrate unprecedented power in the hands of government officials to dictate the bounds of what all students and families can read, learn, and share–in ways that are deeply undemocratic,” officials with PEN America, a nonprofit focused on free expression, wrote in a statement.

The university’s poll found that nine of out 10 Republicans were in favor of the idea, compared to roughly half of Democrats.

The poll has a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points.

Support was strong — at nearly 80% — among Texans with a minor child.

Meanwhile, roughly two-thirds of Texans support legislation requiring every school district to offer ethnic studies — including Mexican American or African American studies — as required curriculum. Texas school districts are currently able to offer those courses as electives.

This show of support comes after the State Board of Education delayed further updates to its social studies curriculum, and additional ethnic studies courses, amid conservative backlash.

North Texas course on Native American history, culture aims to combat stereotypes

Also in January, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration blocked a new African American studies Advanced Placement class from being taught in the state’s high schools.

Requiring such courses is favored …….