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Culture war controversies divide parents, school board members in Keller and Grapevine-Colleyville

man at microphone, wearing blue suit jacket, white shirt, glasses, head down some.
Bill Zeeble, from a screen shot of GCISD board meeting
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KERA News
Jeff Netzer is a Colleyville parent of two daughters. One is trans. He says GCISD's new policy will have a detrimental and potentially harmful impact on the lives of marginalized kids already feeling scared, lost, and misunderstood.

Book policies at Keller ISD, and new book, bathroom and curriculum policies at Grapevine-Colleyville ISD are now in place after school board votes Monday night. The controversial policies left parents, teachers and officials divided following hours of public comment and debate.

In a 4-3 vote, Grapevine-Colleyville trustees voted that multi occupancy “school bathrooms or changing facilities” can only be used by people based on their biological sex. It recalled Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s controversial 2017 ‘bathroom bill,’ that basically intended the same but failed in the Texas legislature.

Many public speakers at Monday night’s meeting praised all the policies that toughened book restrictions, the bathroom policy, and declared that so-called Critical Race Theory would not be taught in schools. The district also chose not to accommodate the use of preferred pronouns.

Resident Steven Chaka said of the trustees, “You didn’t allow woke-ism here. Count your blessings.” Colleyville city council member George Dodson praised the board for stopping those who “want to turn us into a communist state.”

But GCISD parent Jeff Netzer, with two daughters, one of whom he said is trans, told the board that the new policies “will have a detrimental and potential harmful impact on the lives of hundreds of marginalized kids who are already feeling scared, lost and misunderstood.”

Also expressing concern, the Texas ACLU said in a statement that the bathroom policy “will lead to teachers, staff, and students policing each other’s restroom access and invading the privacy of their peers. It will result in bullying, harassment, and cruelty towards transgender and intersex students.”

Keller ISD tightens restrictions on books

In Keller, the board approved tougher book policies, overturning one that had already examined more than 40 titles questioned last year by parents. Earlier this month, those books were removed again, on Keller’s first day of school. Titles included all versions of the bible and a graphic adaptation of Anne Frank’s Diary. That, along with versions of the Bible have since been restored to the library. Nearly every public speaker blasted the board for its policy on books, many of which touch on characters who are LGBTQ+.

Keller ISD’s new restrictive guidelines for books prohibit titles with a minor’s use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco. Restrictions on sexual content are toughest for the youngest students and become less for older grades. But content that includes sexual abuse and “explicit” sexual conduct is never allowed.

Keller ISD senior Cameron Munn told the board Monday night that he is gay, and explained how difficult it was to make this discovery in high school. But he said books helped. He discovered characters who felt “misunderstood and hated by the world around them, [but he] loved being able to finally relate to a character and feel truly seen for the first time.”

Munn said marginalized students in Keller ISD feel attacked by this the school board. He said this policy harms people like him.

Got a tip? Email Reporter Bill Zeeble at bzeeble@kera.org. You can follow him on Twitter @bzeeble.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.