A book about racism has been the source of controversy at some RRISD schools. The book, ‘Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You’, is on the middle school reading list but after receiving a complaint from a parent that reached board level, its place on the list is being debated. A petition from teachers and parents striving to keep the book on the reading list has gained more than 1,500 signatures and on Thursday, Feb. 4, the Board of Trustees held a vote in a closed session on its potential ban and concluded ‘Stamped’ will remain on the reading list.
“There is inequality. So how do we fix that?,” RRISD parent Catenya McHenry said. “It is not OK to not have the conversation about what is making us uncomfortable. I think that’s how we learn and how we grow and if we don’t allow our children that opportunity, then we are hurting them in a way.”
The popular petition was created by former RRISD teacher Aidan Larson, who taught the book to her students in 2020. Larson observed the student-led inquiries and projects that this book prompted and created the petition to bring attention to the controversy that was underway.
Ms. McHenry is one of the parents who signed the petition to stop the potential ban and also amongst those who believe the book is essential to educating students about prevalent issues.
“The book has passed through a rigorous selection process to be on the approved reading list in the first place,” Ms. Larson said. “I thought it would be good for everyone to know that was happening. This wasn’t like it was just plopped on a list and then we just decided to teach it. It is there for a reason. It is there because it’s instructional.”
Teachers have had the choice to use ‘Stamped’ to do their teaching, but RRISD says that parents get a choice as well. If parents object to their children reading assigned materials, they have the option to request an alternative optional assignment. The challenge of approved instructional material was heard at the campus and district level. At both levels a committee agreed that the book was appropriate to remain on the reading list, leaving the complainant the option to have the challenge heard by the Board of Trustees.
“Some people don’t enjoy the uncomfortable conversations,” RRISD parent Ashley Walker, a signer of the petition, said. “If kids learn now our history, then they’ll be able to change our future instead of continuously repeating the past over and over.”
The district has regularly scheduled Board meetings on the first Thursday of each month. The complaint and controversy over ‘Stamped’ was presented on the agenda for the meeting on Feb. 4, in which the Board decided to take no action on the Level 3 challenge, meaning the District’s Level 2 decision of keeping ‘Stamped’ on the book list persists in this matter.