Texas superintendent says Anne Frank book will be back in schools ‘very soon’ after outcry

Administrators in Fort Worth had decided to withdraw and review over 35 contentious books


The superintendent of a Texas school district has said that an adaptation of Anne Frank's diary will return to shelves "very soon" following an outcry at its removal.

In a statement, Superintendent Rick Westfall told parents and employees in the district that they are "not banning the Bible or the Diary of Anne Frank, as has been suggested in some headlines and shared on social media", calling it a "miscommunication".

He noted that only the illustrated version of Anne Frank's diary had been removed, not copies of the diary itself.

A school district in Dallas came under fire last week after removing a number of books from its school libraries including the Bible, an illustrated version of Anne Frank's Diary and 'So you've been publicly shamed' by Jon Ronson.

On Monday, The Keller School District in Fort Worth, Texas sent staff a request to remove all books that had been challenged by parents by the end of the day, part of a long-running battle over material that students in Texas can access.

In the statement published late last week, Superintendent Westfall said: "Books that have been challenged by community members as being inappropriate for schools are required to be removed from shelves and held in a Parental Consent Area until the challenge process is complete."

The School Board will review each book that has been challenged by parents under a new policy.

"If the books pass the new standards, as determined by reviews conducted in coordination with campus administration and librarians, the books will be promptly returned to shelves," the Superintendent added.

The statement did not give a timeframe for when challenged books would be returned to shelves, nor any details on the original complaint about the book.

Some parents in the district were left confused by the move last week, which came after a school district committee recommended certain complained about books, including the Anne Frank Diary adaptation be returned to school libraries.

The school board behind the controvery is comprised of three recently elected members, including the Vice President, Secretary and a trustee, who were elected for a three-year term in May.

Joni Shaw Smith, Micah Young and Sandi Young were all backed by a right-wing political action campaign set up by Christian phone network Patriot Mobile. According to Patriot Mobile's website, the group is on track to donate over $1.5m dollars to "Christian conservative causes" in 2022.

The political arm of the phone carrier describes itself as: "engaging on the front lines of this culture war. We are advocating on behalf of those who will stand for American values and stand against leftist indoctrination, racist Critical Race Theory and the sexualization of children that is rampant in public schools."

Laney Hawes, a parent of four children in the school district, served on the committee that examined whether the Anne Frank Diary adaptation should be allowed in district schools.

Hawes said when the committee was initially presented with the complaint about Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation, they were shocked. She told The JC she and the rest of the committee unanimously decided to reinstate the book in May of this year.

The graphic novel depicting Anne Frank's diary was adapted from the unabridged version of the journal that contains mentions of teenage sexuality and homosexuality.

When asked why she thought the 2019 book was complained about, Hawes said it was part of an organised effort by conservative parents to get books they disagreed with withdrawn from schools.

"These parents clearly haven't read the books they're complaining about, there's some really random titles in the lists, that I think are being circulated by Christian activists.

"This is part of a wider movement to restrict access to books with differing viewpoints, whether that be on race or LGBT issues, or anything that goes against their traditional values.

She added that school board officials had been put in a difficult position, saying: "They clearly want to remain neutral, they don't want to get fired. But this all started happening with the election of the new school board.

"These elections, which are very low turnout, saw an influx of money from Patriot Mobile, who, on their website are proud about the fact that they spend huge money in these tiny races.

"The teachers are now being put in a tough position, I'm sure the majority of them believe in having access to all sorts of material.

"I believe in free speech, and even the right of parents to restrict what their children read, but I take exception to people telling me what books my kids are allowed to read in a public school."

In a statement, Keller School District said: "All of the books included in Tuesday’s email have been included on Keller ISD’s Book Challenge list over the past year. Books that meet the new guidelines will be returned to the libraries as soon as it is confirmed they comply with the new policy. "

This latest row over books in American schools comes after school officials in Tennessee voted to ban Pulitzer prize-winning graphic novel Maus from school libraries citing the use of profanity including the phrase “God Damn” and illustrations of naked female Holocaust victims.

At the time, Maus author Art Spiegelman called the decision "demented" but argued it wasn't antisemitic saying in a New York Magazine interview: “I feel like this wasn’t an actual anti-Semitic incident. It was an incident created by somebody who probably knows very few Jews."

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive