The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is opening an investigation into Granbury Independent School District in Texas after the superintendent ordered that school libraries remove any books dealing with LGBTQ+ topics.
In January, Superintendent Jeremy Glenn met with district librarians and directed them to remove the books. "I acknowledge that there are men that think they're women and there are women that think they're men," he said at the meeting, according to a joint investigation by The Texas Tribune, NBC News, and ProPublica. "I don't have any issues with what people want to believe, but there's no place for it in our libraries."
In the weeks after the meeting, 130 titles were taken off library shelves. Later, a committee voted to return most of them, the Tribune reports. But Glenn had nonetheless created a hostile environment for LGBTQ+ students, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, which filed a complaint with the Education Department in July.
This month, the department announced that its Office for Civil Rights would begin investigating the district, which is located near Fort Worth, for possible violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a federal law banning sex discrimination in education. Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity falls under the definition of sex discrimination, department officials say, and schools that receive federal funds, as most do, are subject to Title IX.
This "appears to be the first such investigation explicitly tied to the nationwide movement to ban school library books dealing with sexuality and gender," the Tribune reports. If the Education Department finds students' rights have been violated, "the agency can require the district to make policy changes and submit to federal monitoring," the publication adds.
The ACLU of Texas welcomed the move. "Public school districts cannot discriminate against students on the basis of sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation," Chloe Kempf, an attorney with the organization, said in a press release. "By choosing to open this investigation in response to our complaint, the federal government is signaling that remedying discrimination against LGBTQIA+ students is a top priority and that school districts cannot deny students the right to be themselves in school, be it through book bans, discriminatory comments, or other harmful policies."