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Granbury school board censures trustee for allegedly sneaking into school library

Ten people sit at a long, rounded podium at the front of a room, facing the viewer. Behind them are two screens on the left and right sides of a wall, reading "Granbury ISD Board of Trustees Meeting." On the wall between the screens is the Granbury ISD logo, a capital G over an outline of the state of Texas. Under the logo are the words "Granbury Independent School District."  In front of the 10 people is a woman standing at a podium with her back to the viewer. Behind her are three rows of seated people.
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Granbury ISD on YouTube
Granbury ISD's Board of Trustees held a special meeting Aug. 23, 2023 to decide whether to censure Karen Lowery, a trustee accused of making an unauthorized visit to the Granbury High School library and looking through books. Lowery has previously campaigned on keeping sexually explicit materials away from GISD students.

Granbury ISD trustees voted Wednesday to censure trustee Karen Lowery for an allegedly unauthorized visit to a high school library Aug. 2 where she was accused of looking for books she believed to be too sexually explicit.

The school board hosted a special meeting Wednesday night to address accusations first reported by The Daily Beast that Lowery snuck into the Granbury High School library to look through books under the guise of participating in the school's Operation School Supplies event as a volunteer.

Based on video evidence and staff statements presented in a report read by the district's general counsel, the board agreed Lowery violated trust by entering the library unauthorized and would be censured, or publicly reprimanded.

"We don't win no matter what we do," said board secretary Courtney Gore. "We don't win. The only people that pay the price for this, no matter what happens tonight, are the kids of this district."

The vote was 5-2, with Place 3 trustee Melanie Graft siding with Lowery. Graft questioned who exactly had conducted the investigation, and after some back and forth Superintendent Jeremy K. Glenn said, "I can explain it again, but I can't understand it for you."

According to the report, Lowery checked in at the school's front office the morning of Aug. 2. Her district-issued badge identified her as a trustee.

Lowery was accompanied by Carolyn Reeves, who Lowery said is a parent. Reeves' badge was printed through the school's Raptor system and listed her destination as the school cafeteria. The school's receptionist was cited in the report as believing both women were at the school for the school supplies event.

The two entered the library at 9:25 a.m., according to surveillance video. The report notes the women took a less direct route to enter the library than was possible.

About five minutes later, Assistant Principal Danny Guidry saw the two in the dark using their phone flashlights to look at books. Guidry is cited as saying it was "so dark in the library it was difficult to see."

When asked if he could help the two women, Lowery allegedly said, “I have been asked by the superintendent to come and look at some books.” It was later stated in the report Glenn denied this.

The two then left the library unaccompanied at about 10:50 a.m., according to video.

The report states Lowery did not make an appointment with Glenn or the principal to visit the school library, as required by school board policies. The report indicates Lowery violated school board policy by walking through the library unaccompanied by school staff. There was also no evidence Lowery or Reeves were volunteering with Operation School Supplies.

Though the report did not mention why Lowery was allegedly examining the books, the trustee has been outspoken about her goal of protecting GISD students from "sexually explicit and age-inappropriate" material. NBC 5 also reported she helped make a criminal complaint over books viewed as obscene.

In her own statement following public comment, Lowery said she had called around 9 a.m. letting the principal know she'd be coming, and she was not aware the Operation School Supplies event was happening.

Lowery said she was taking pictures of books because of challenges she was having with changes to Follett, a school library management system. She said the lights were off, but there was enough ambient light for her to see the books except for those closest to the floor, hence the flashlight.

"Spending taxpayer money for this witch hunt — harassing and bullying another trustee — is not what is in the best interest of the students for this district," Lowery said.

The meeting had over 50 public speakers. Whether in support or not of Lowery's censure, public comments reflected concerns over what some deem inappropriate content in library books that have been echoed districts across the country.

It comes as the deadline approaches for districts to be in compliance with House Bill 900, which bans sexually explicit material from school libraries.

Parents and activist groups have criticized the bill and efforts to ban sexual content in school library books for unfairly targeting the LGBTQ+ community and people of color.

"I just want the queer community of Granbury ISD know that you matter," said parent Hannah Bohm.

Lowery said her censure wouldn't change her school board goals.

"'Vengeance is mine, and recompense,' says the Lord," Lowery said. "Board president, superintendent, board and audience: I am not going anywhere."

Got a tip? Email Toluwani Osibamowo at tosibamowo@kera.org. You can follow Toluwani on Twitter @tosibamowo.

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Toluwani Osibamowo is a general assignments reporter for KERA. She previously worked as a news intern for Texas Tech Public Media and copy editor for Texas Tech University’s student newspaper, The Daily Toreador, before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She is originally from Plano.