Who is Matt Krause? A lawmaker spurred the book ban movement in Texas

  • A GOP lawmaker led the campaign to ban the books in Texas, a Discovery of the Houston Chronicle investigation.
  • In 2021, state Rep. Matt Krause asked school districts to review a list of 850 books.
  • Texas now has the highest number of book bans in the United States.

Texas librarian Carolyn Foote began noticing a trend in the spring of 2021 as she began to prepare for retirement — the challenges of children’s books in school libraries, particularly around race and sexuality, were increasing.

After leaving her post, she says what sped up the bans dramatically was a list of 850 books for districts to review sent in October 2021 to the Texas Education Agency.

“I was a librarian for 29 years and we had three reading challenges,” Foote, one of the founders of the #FReadomFighters movement, told Insider.

Texas is now a leader in book bans, and an influential politician — with pressure from the GOP — may have been the driving force, a Discovery of the Houston Chronicle investigation.

State Representative Matt Krause – also Chairman of the General Commission of Inquirywhich investigates government matters – offered the book query to gauge how many school districts had books on topics that “contain material that could make students feel uncomfortable, guilty, distressed, or otherwise form of psychological distress,” based on race or gender, according to a letter obtained by the Texas Grandstand.

Book reviews were optional (Krause had no authority to make them mandatory), but after the list was published, Texas Governor Greg Abbott got involved, pressure schools to revise books containing “pornographic or obscene material”.

In April 2022, an analysis by PEN America found that Texas had 713 bans, nearly half of all book bans in the United States.

‘You know, we’d love to take the credit if we could do that’

Of 2,080 books reviewed for in-school removals by districts since 2018, two-thirds of the reviews took place after Krause submitted his list, according to Chronicle’s analysis.

In an interview with Insider, Krause disagreed with the claim that it all boils down to one politician, and said parents in the state are the ones who pay attention to the types of books their children read. .

“You know, we’d love to take credit if we could do that,” Krause said. “But there’s really no credit to be had. We’ve actually just joined in on what we’ve already heard from a group of parents about the state of book concern in some school districts. .”

Many titles on Krause’s book list have been written by authors of color and LGBTQ authors. Chronicle’s analysis found that this influenced the types of book reviews that dominated school districts: 1,334 book reviews considered stories about LGBTQ+ while 609 highlighted people of color or discussed racial issues.

Krause told Insider he couldn’t clarify whether his office generated the list due to “ongoing or potential investigations.” He also told the Dallas Morning News in 2021 that he doesn’t believe he had read any of the books on his list.

Krause told Insider that the reason for his efforts was to make sure schools followed the Texas state “race and sexuality” law that was passed in the 2021 legislative session.

Abbott signed a “critical race theory” law in June 2021, which banned content that would make students “uncomfortable, guilty, anxious, or in any other form of psychological distress because of the individual’s race or gender” in social studies curricula. The law was replaced by the more comprehensive Senate Bill 3 in December.

Krause voted yes on both HB 3979 and SB 3 in the House.

Texas did not pass any LGBTQ-specific education laws in the last legislative session, but Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick announced this year that he would. give priority to the adoption of a model law after what critics call Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law.

“I think it’s good for the students, and I think it’s appropriate and healthy for the students to be exposed to various points of view, various points of view, ideologies, beliefs and things like that while we’re progressing in school, but I think you can do that in an age-appropriate way, and in a reasonable, appropriate way,” Krause said.

queer and lawn boy genre book covers

The “Gender Queer” and “Lawn Boy” books are popular targets for book bans.

Penguin Random House; Simon & Schuster.

Krause told Insider that the only personally objectionable books that come to mind were Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer” and Jonathan Evison’s “Lawn Boy.” Both books deal with LGBTQ topics and contain sexually explicit material.

But Foote said many of the books she found on the list contained no explicit material, and no academic rigor was applied to creating the list.

“If this list was really meant to make sure schools complied with the law, then I don’t really know how all of these types of titles ended up on the list,” Foote said. “It seemed a lot more targeted in terms of someone’s belief systems.”

Ricardo Martinez, CEO of an LGBTQ nonprofit Texas Equalitysaid the number of books with LGBTQ characters and authors on Krause’s list was concerning, especially given the large number of anti-LGBTQ bills introduced to the Texas Legislature in 2021.

“It’s disappointing that we’re seen as an easy punching bag,” Martinez told Insider.

Krause is known to be at odds with the LGBTQ community in Texas.

Krause represents Tarrant County District 93, which includes parts of Fort Worth and Arlington. He served his district for five two-year terms.

In 2022, he ran for district attorney but lost the primary. He also ran for state attorney general, but his name did not appear on the ballot.

Krause’s legislative record, particularly when it comes to LGBTQ issues, has already put him in the spotlight: In 2013, Equality Texas named him state president. the most homophobic legislator. He has also sponsored and drafted several anti-LGBTQ bills, such as that of 2017 HB 1923, which would have allowed companies to refuse to serve LGBTQ couples based on religious beliefs. The bill was never passed.

Krause was an adjunct professor at Liberty University Online, an evangelical university in Virginia that prohibited “statements and behaviors associated with LGBT mindsets” as well as pronouns that differed from birth-assigned sex, Dallas Morning News declared in 2021.

It also has links with wall buildersa Christian organization that seeks to emphasize “the moral, religious and constitutional foundations upon which America was built,” reported the Morning News.

Krause is also anti-abortion and already tried – and failed – to establish the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade from the Supreme Court as a statewide “day of tears.”

He defended himself against the Dallas Morning News article, saying that while his faith “plays a role in everything I do,” that was not why he launched the investigation.

Krause leaves office next year and won’t launch another book investigation, but he said Texans may continue to see book listings that look at other pieces of legislation — it all depends on who’s in charge. of the investigation committee.

Some politicians and parent groups disagreed with the survey

Krause denies any political motivation behind the book list, but critics disagree.

For Foote, book bans represent GOP political motivations, citing school board officials and lawmakers who have issued their own challenges from the book.

Not all school districts complied with Krause’s investigation, and many books remained in schools after the reviews were made. The Northeast San Antonio ISD banned or partially banned 119 books listed on Krause’s document, the most of any district, after pulling hundreds of books from shelves for reviews.

In a statement to The Chronicle, a NEISD spokesperson said the books were misplaced at an elementary library out of concern for “age appropriateness.” A NEISD spokesperson did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.

Krause’s colleague on the Texas General Investigative Committee, Representative Victoria Neave Criado, was against his calls for districts to revise their reading materials and previously called the book investigation a “whitewash” of the law. ‘story.

A representative for Criado did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

The new frontier of book bans: self-censorship

Foote, along with other groups in Texas, have made progress in keeping books on the shelves.

But now, says Foote, what lies behind book bans is the self-censorship librarians now grapple with in anticipation of backlash from politicians or parent groups or fear of personal repercussions.

Norman Public School Library, Book Ban

A classroom library in Oklahoma that has been covered by a teacher who fears backlash from recent legislation that limits what can be taught in schools.

Provided by a Normandy public school teacher

“We don’t know how many things are not being purchased now because teachers are afraid to have them in their classroom, because libraries are afraid to have them… so there’s a lot of self-censorship and self — restraint that happens because people are scared,” Foote said.

A school library journal survey of 720 US school libraries taken in May revealed that librarians were self-censoring. Nearly 30% of respondents said they had decided not to buy books with LGBTQ characters.

Foote said this results in a “scary environment” for both librarians and students who end up finding themselves in the middle of these battles.

“The fact that by removing books or censoring books about LGBTQ characters or characters of color, we’re basically telling them that you don’t belong in our library,” Foote said. “Your story doesn’t belong in our libraries, which means you don’t belong here.”

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