Book Bans Take Center Stage in Leander ISD

Most seats are up for grabs

Five of the Leander ISD school board's seven seats are up for grabs this election, and most of the candidates are ready to ban some more books (Photo by Maggie Q. Thompson)

Leander ISD has become a local battleground in conservatives' nationwide war against honest conversations about gender, sexuality, and race in schools. Five of the seven seats on the LISD Board of Trustees are up this Novem­ber, and for several candidates, book banning and moral panic are at the heart of their campaigns.

In 2021, after a lengthy conflict over what books should be available in LISD libraries and on student reading lists, the district pulled 11 books from the shelves, mostly writings by women on gender inequality and gender violence. A study by PEN Amer­ica showed Texas led the nation in school book bannings, with 801 different titles pulled from school shelves in 2021. But activists don't think the Leander trustees went far enough, and candidates are promising to ban more books – the ongoing drama led Trustee Jim MacKay to resign in protest last month.

"It is completely inappropriate for adults to be providing pornography to minors inside our schools. That will come to an end if I am elected," candidate Mike Sanders told the Chronicle. "We need to replace a majority of the board to bring a stop to this practice. The correct question to ask here is not why some book should be removed from our schools, but rather why any adult would want to provide pornography to someone else's child."

Sanders is not the only candidate in his Place 1 race to make such a pledge, and at least one and sometimes two contenders in each of the five seats up for election fully endorse the nationwide campaign against "pedophilia" and "sexualizing children" by allowing them to read books about sexual minorities. Place 7 incumbent Elexis Grimes said she wants parents to take a more active role in their children's education and decide for themselves what they do and do not want their child to learn. "We have a policy that works diligently to keep age-appropriate materials in the right places and through that policy I think that protects teachers and protects students," Grimes said. "Parents have the right then to fill out a form to request a review of the book … So I believe it's a parent's choice for their student."

In Texas, this got rolling in 2021 when outgoing state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Ft. Worth – then a candidate for attorney general, and later for Tarrant County district attorney (he lost) – released a list of 850 books for districts to investigate, also focusing on issues of gender and racial equality or "material that might make students feel discomfort." Gov. Greg Abbott later launched a Texas Education Agency investigation into "the availability of pornography" in public schools.

LISD Board Candidates

Place 1

David Doman*
Trish Bode (i)
Mike Sanders*

Place 2

Brandi Burkman*
Gloria Gonzales-Dholakia (i)

Place 5 Unexpired Term

Kevin Leverenz*
Shawn Leege*
Sade Fashokun (i)

Place 6

Francesca Romans
Sharon Bell*
Scott Reese*

Place 7

Joseph Gorordo
Paul Gauthier*
Elexis Grimes (i)

* Candidate supports book bans
(i) Incumbent

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