Banning Books in HISD... Plus: Metro cop involved in fatal shooting kills himself

Highlights from the Blog at HOUSTONPRESS.COM

Edumacation, Political Animals

Book-Learnin'
They're still banning books in HISD

By Richard Connelly

The Texas chapter of the ACLU, perhaps the most socialistically communistic group outside of the Obama administration, has released its annual report on attempts to ban books in schools.

The bad news: Houston Independent School District tied for second in the state in the number of challenged books. The good news: The number of challenges dropped dramatically, from 20 last year to a half-dozen this year. (The leader was Stephenville, with 11 challenged books.)

We'll give you the list of HISD challenges, but it's noteworthy that the ACLU had some harsh criticism for the way the district goes about hearing challenges.

"In this key district," the ACLU said, "we discovered what is safe to call a complete failure in policy, record-keeping and government transparency. When asked to provide records of their review committee hearings and membership rolls, representatives of HISD were forced to admit that no such records are kept."

So what got challenged? And what got banned?

Here's the books, the school, the reasons for the challenge and the outcome:

Freak Show by James St. James. A challenge at Foerster Elementary for "Profanity; Violence or horror; Offensive to religious sensitivities; Politically, racially, or socially offensive." It was banned.

Speak by Laurie Anderson. At Windsor Village Elementary. Profanity. Banned.

Tamar by Mel Peet. Foerster Elementary. Profanity. Banned.

La Cocina de Noche by ­Maurice Sendak. Golfcrest Elementary. ­Sexual content or nudity. Banned.

Getting It by Alex Sanchez. Johnston Middle School. Sexual content or nudity. Retained.

The Westing Game by Ellen Ruskin.Brookline Elementary. Violence or horror. Use restricted.

Here's HISD's response to the ACLU complaint: "Every year the district freely complies with requests from the ACLU regarding requests for reconsideration received during the year. No one has required that the district maintain or record these proceedings or that the membership of the committees be maintained as a public record. Our library collections district-wide number over a million volumes. We are pleased that only six books in a district our size were challenged according to the 2008-2009 report. Certainly in our state, the incidents of book objections are decreasing in all districts including HISD."
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Tales from Transit

Tragedy Times Two
Metro cop involved in shooting kills himself

By Richard Connelly

Terribly sad news out of HPD — the Metro cop who was involved in the agency's first fatal shooting has committed suicide.

Officer R.L. Harrington had been no-billed by a grand jury in relation to the incident, in which he shot and killed a knife-wielding man and injured a passerby near the Rice campus.

"We're confident that Officer Harrington did exactly what he was supposed to do," Metro Police Chief Tom Lambert said after the no-billing.

An unidentified male's body was discovered at 3:45 a.m. September 5 in a car in the 9300 block of Richmond.

"Patrol officers responded to a shooting-in-progress call and found the victim sitting in the driver's seat of his vehicle with a gunshot wound to the head," HPD said at the time.

HPD spokesman Victor Senties tells Hair Balls, "The case has been closed out as a suicide."

Metro spokeswoman Raequel Roberts referred all questions on the matter to HPD. Metro and the bystander who was shot offered wildly divergent descriptions of the event and its aftermath.

 
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