Texas’ largest school district has come under criticism for saying it would eliminate its libraries and the role of librarians and other staff to make room for misbehaving children.
Over the next school year, the Houston Independent School District will convert libraries at 28 campuses into “team centers” where students will continue to learn remotely, a decision made as part of Superintendent Mike Miles’ New Education System initiative. according to The Guardian.
These centers will not have a specialized librarian. Miles, who was appointed by the Texas Education Agency in June, said students who need extra support can “catch up” and have more contact with teachers and learning coaches, KHOU 11 News reported.
The library’s closure follows the state’s announcement that it would take over the district beginning in the 2023-24 school year due to poor academic results.
“I am beyond proud that so many HISD school leaders are willing to take bold action to improve outcomes for all students and to close the persistent achievement and opportunity gaps in our district,” said Miles, The Guardian reported.
Miles explained that the management of books in libraries is at the discretion of principals and teachers. He found that under his previous system, children could take books off the shelves and be trusted to put them back, KHOU 11 News reported.
Kelli Benes, CEO of a nonprofit called First3Years, which aims to help Texans ages three and younger grow up in a healthy environment, said attacks on libraries undermine efforts to provide children with a foundation to learn offer.
She said most affected librarians are “less concerned about their own employment and more concerned about the lack of access their students will now have.”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner criticized the district’s decision, arguing that restricting access to books was not the appropriate response to the problem of inappropriate behavior, particularly in underserved communities.
He recommended that schools keep their libraries open to prevent a split in the district and offer more support to students who need it.
“Are there students who need additional support? Yes, and I support that 100%. But it’s not an either/or,” Turner said, The Guardian reported. “You don’t close the libraries, remove the librarians and just leave the books on the shelves. What about all the other students? What are you telling them?”
According to KHOU, the remaining 57 schools participating in Miles’ NES program will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
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