Texas Students Push Back Against Book Bans for Censoring LGBTQ, Racial Justice Issues

For high school senior Gabrielle Izu, Texas’ public school book bans feel personal.

“I ignored [my sexuality] for a really long time. And I think that as a young girl, if a book showed me that this is a life that could be lived, I could have had a lot more peace and coming to terms with bisexuality,” said Izu, who attends James E. Taylor High School in the Katy Independent School District near Houston.

In Katy ISD, students have distributed hundreds of novels challenged by adults in Texas. They’re getting the books free of charge from a political advocacy organization and publishers. And Leander ISD near Austin, students are coming together in a banned-book club to discuss those books. Some students are starting to attend school board meetings to fight for the freedom to choose what to read.

“It felt like my identity was seen as dangerous because of the banning of a story like that. What about my story? Am I seen as a bad influence?” Izu said. “Am I seen as something that should be shamed?”

Students in the banned-book club often discuss how each book introduces them to new perspectives or historical events. Credit: Lauren Witte/The Texas Tribune

Texas parents and politicians say they are protecting students with book bans. Many students, including Cameron Samuels, a senior at Seven Lakes High School in Katy ISD, aren’t buying it.

“It’s clear that these books address issues of race and LGBTQ identities, and that is the exact reason that certain people are seeking to remove these books from libraries and prohibit students from accessing them,” said Samuels, who helped with distribution efforts. “And these policies have dire consequences for us because they keep us struggling with our queer identities.”

Katy ISD students showed strong support at the events, Samuels said. But not all parents are happy, and some have even tried to enter the school to disturb student discussions on Texas’ book bans, they said.

“As far as I have seen, parents have been the center focus of the movement to ban books and remove them from libraries, where students have been at the forefront of advocating for having access to these books,” Samuels said.

The district returned “New Kid” to shelves last semester, but Samuels said only students in fifth grade and up are permitted to check it out.

Samuels, who is nonbinary, said the novel comforted them, as they have often felt isolated as one of the few students at their school who use they/them pronouns.

“I have often felt alone and have experienced microaggressions,” Samuels said. “There’s no reason that addressing these issues should be something that students are prevented from doing or prohibited from learning about.”

“As students, we must take ownership of our education and not let others decide for us which resources we can access and which topics we can learn about,” they said.

At a recent Katy ISD school board meeting, students packed the room to call for the district to return books to libraries. Samuels and other students plan to continue to protest book bans at a Capitol rally on March 12.

“This is censorship. This is bad,” Izu said. “This is condemning things that shouldn’t be condemned.”

“They’re OK with heterosexual scenes, heterosexual ideas. But the second something turns slightly, slightly queer, slightly homosexual, it discomforts them. It’s the same thing with [people of color] viewpoints,” Sadeghi said. “​​Why do we have to remove books about Black people and Asian Americans simply for the sake of white people’s comfort?”

In Leander ISD, students gather together every two weeks to answer a similar question: Should this book be banned?

Vandegrift High School sophomores Ella Scott and Alyssa Hoy created the school’s banned-book club after looking at the list of books their district aimed to ban last year. The district would remove some of their favorite books from classroom libraries, and as a result, the students began having discussions about decisions they felt the district made without them.

“I loved ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’” Scott said, referring to Atwood’s novel about a totalitarian society that forces fertile women to be raped so they can carry to term the offspring of elite couples. It’s now one of the restricted books in her school. “I love that book. Forever. It’s one of my favorites. Seeing it on the list was definitely disorienting.”

Leander ISD has so far removed the physical copies of 11 book titles from classroom libraries, but nine of those still reside in the school’s main and digital libraries, according to Matt Mitchell, Leander ISD’s communications coordinator.

During study hall, dozens of students from all grades meet to discuss one of the banned books’ plot and purpose, as well as who should have access to its storylines. So far, they generally agree the banned books furthered their education and should be freely accessible in the classroom.

Often, the students discuss how each book introduces to them new perspectives or even historical events.

Pérez’s now-banned novel “Out of Darkness” follows a love affair between Naomi, a Mexican American high school senior, and Wash, a Black teenager, in the days before the 1937 gas explosion at the New London school, still one of the worst national disasters in history. Many book club students were unaware of this tragic event in the East Texas town of New London.

“These are very powerful stories,” Hoy said. “Most of the time, those tough decisions and tough scenes are reasons why they are so powerful and so meaningful to so many people.”

Last semester, the club had members purchase their books. Recently, the club set up an Amazon wish list to fund book purchases. In 24 hours, donated funds paid for the group’s books. Hoy said the community has supported the club through the semester.

“Eventually, we hope our club won’t be necessary,” Scott said. “We just hope that our voices and our opinions will be considered.”

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.


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‘Unbridled Hatred’: DeSantis SPOX Blasted for Saying ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Opponents ‘Probably’ Are ‘Groomers’ of Kids

Yet Pushaw was only too happy to push the vicious, damaging, and discredited lie.

She didn’t stop there.

To be clear, the spokesperson for the governor of the nation’s third-largest state is saying nearly half his constituents are “probably” grooming children for sex, or “complicit” in grooming children for sex.

Equality Florida blasted Pushaw over the weekend, saying, “Governor DeSantis’ spokesperson said the quiet part out loud: that this bill is grounded in a belief that LGBTQ people, simply by existing, are a threat to children and must be erased.”

“He chose Pushaw to speak his mind to the public. He owns this unbridled hatred. This same bigoted insinuation has long been been used to stigmatize our families, justify denying us the ability to adopt children, and is being used to justify the tracking of transgender children by government agents in Texas and threats to imprison their parents. Make no mistake — this is a tacit announcement from the Governor that he supports the true intent of the Don’t Say Gay bill: the erasure of LGBTQ people.”

Democratic state Senator Annette Taddeo is calling for action against Pushaw:

“Gov. DeSantis personally owes millions of Floridians an explanation as to why his spokesperson — whose salary is paid wholly with tax dollars — believes it is acceptable to label opponents to this bigoted bill as ‘groomers,’ a code word for pedophiles. It is outrageous that the Governor’s Office continues to use taxpayer resources to advance a radical, partisan agenda. Students, educators, and families across the state overwhelmingly agree: enough of the intimidation and targeted assaults on Florida’s most vulnerable.”

Democratic state Reps. Angie Nixon and Carlos G, Smith:

Other social media users blasted Pushaw:

Calling someone a groomer is calling someone a pedophile. Groomer is a term for someone who engages children over time to entice them into sexual activity. Plenty of criminal lawyers and prosecutors know exactly what a groomer is. And so does Pushaw.

I knew in kindergarten that I wasn’t like the rest. I didn’t have the vocabulary to put to those feelings until junior high. At 15yo, I put a shotgun in my mouth ready to end the confusion & shame.


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First Mro language grammar book brings a ray of hope for the indigenous community

The customs and the culture of the Mros need preserving

এ বইয়ের মাধ্যমে ম্রো সম্প্রদায়ের লোকজন শুদ্ধভাবে তা‌দের ভাষায় লিখতে ও পড়তে পারবে। বিশেষ করে ম্রো শিক্ষার্থীদের বাংলা ও ইংরেজি ব্যাকরণ বোঝার জন্য বইটি সহায়ক ভূমিকা রাখবে।

Through this book, people of the Mro community will be able to read and write correctly in their language. This will be especially helpful for Mro students also to understand Bengali and English grammar as they have similar structures.

ম্রো বর্ণমালা আবিষ্কারের পর তাদের হাতে লিখে লিখে বর্ণমালা পড়ানো হতো। এখন নিজেদের ভাষায় বই আকারে ছাপা হলো। এর ফলে এখন থেকে বইটির মাধ্যমে শিক্ষার্থীরা ম্রো ভাষা আরও শুদ্ধভাবে লিখতে ও পড়তে পারবে।

After the creation of the Mro alphabet, it was taught to students with handwritten scripts. Now the alphabets and the grammar are printed in a book form. So the students will be able to read and write Mro language more accurately.

বইমেলার সমস্ত বইয়ের মাঝেও যে বইটা অমূল্য।

That book is invaluable among all the books of the book fair.

People's progress depends on acquiring knowledge through languages. The importance of language, especially the mother tongue, to survival is high. And to learn and practice a language properly, a structured grammar is necessary. In that context, Younguang Mro's “Totong” will usher in a new history of language development for the Mro people.


Ukrainian Dispatches 3: Angels

Feeling blessed and protected — as much as you can in a war

An old lady trying to walk to the border with a bag with no wheels. Photo by Abel POlese, used with permission.

This is the third of a three-part series by Abel Polese about his escape from Kyiv to Romania with his children, two cats, his ex-wife and her husband after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. Polese is a researcher, trainer and development worker and is currently leading several research projects on shadow economies in Ukraine. He flew to Kyiv on the night of February 23, only to have to leave the city at dawn the day after.

The situation is getting tenser. You see an increasing number of people walking to the border. Many are Indians. You saw several evacuation buses carrying Indian students so you wonder why those now coming had not been invited. But there is no answer. Many foreign students start arriving and they walk to the border. Entire families with small babies, large suitcases are heading towards the unknown. You nervously ask what time the parents are coming but there’s just one thing to do: wait. 

You were never a fan of panettone (Italian Christmas cake; some profane people would call it huge muffin) but the lady at the airport had convinced you to buy one. After Christmas, the price dropped by 50 percent and this was a luxury one with pistachio cream inside and pistachio grains on the top. This delicacy has traveled with you all the way from Italy last month and is faithfully following you in your odyssey. You decide it’s time to end that, find a knife and invite your Bulgarian neighbour and his daughter to a panettone party. Your younger son follows and you go to the playground to cut the cake and drink water and Pepsi with your new friends.

Panettone party. Photo by Abel Polese, used with permission.

The parents are finally near the border so you start discussing, like in a strategy game, how to shuffle people into three teams that will get everyone out of the country while minimizing the risk for the cats, the kids, the dog, the cash, your grandpa (59 years old with his invalidity certificate forgotten home) who might get arrested at the border and drift directly to a war zone, since all men under 60 might be called to fight.

It’s decided. You take the youngest one and try the walk crossing. Grandpa takes the older one and claims to be the only relative capable of bringing him out of the country, hoping to move the border officers and pass in spite of his “young” age. Grandma will cross alone on foot and ex-wife — with husband and two cats — will come last by car whenever they are allowed. 

You start walking to the border and tears drop down your face. You will pass in any case, you are confident and your situation is perhaps the easiest one. But what about the others? 

You part a few meters before the soldiers and head for the gates, but the situation is disheartening. What was a line has become a shapeless agglomerate of people with hundreds of foreign students mixing with Ukrainian women and children. With little hope, you go asking where is the line for parents with children, and you’re told that No, there is no special line. You have to elbow-fight to get through. 

After a few minutes of asking around, you join some Ukrainian women in their negotiation with some unusual people. They speak Romanian and they promise to bring women (or men, in your case) with children through the border. There is no negotiation. In the span of 10 minutes, you load your luggage into an Audi SUV at the front of the waiting line. You can stop worrying about crossing but you can start worrying about something else. You know the practice of carrying people through a border but that usually comes through a payment. These people want nothing from you, so you wonder what’s their gain? That’s not how most trafficking routes are organized. From a gratuitous offer to help desperate people like you? You send a picture of the car’s plate to all your Romanian friends and wonder if you made a wise choice, after all. 

Walking to the border. Photo by Abel Polese, used with permission,

The more you wait, the more you get to talk with people from cars around you. The night train atmosphere returns, albeit a bit more tense. Perhaps angels exist, after all. Foreign students try to break through the gates because they are not being let out, and the guards shut the border. And if you fail to cross now? Where will you go? What will you do? 

You are surprised when the driver hides your luggage under the spare wheel. Another lady with a one-month-old child is boarding the car and you’re asked to move to the rear seat with other luggage. There’s barely space for your legs. Now you are five adults and three children and the border is still closed. 

The only thing you can do is to sleep. Odd to say in such tense circumstances, but you feel so tired after a sleepless night that it takes only a minute from the moment you close your eyes. You wake up a few times and finally, the car starts moving and your feelings towards the driver move from suspect to total admiration. 

Angelica, this is her name, is a fighter. She yells in three languages at the same time, duly addressing each interlocutor in their own language. She yells at border guards, at sly people trying overtaking and to walking ones, “I have three children in the car and it’s my turn now.” For the first time in three days, you feel blessed and protected. She drives in, collects all passports, hands them to the guards who do not even ask you to come out and let you pass. You’re out. 

‘Free food and accommodation’ (sign in Ukrainian in Romania). Photo by Abel Polese, used with permission.

You were lucky that your ex-flatmate's mother lives just there so she gives you her brother’s empty apartment and you can stay for a few days. She comes to visit every day, brings food, SIM cards for you to stay in touch with the rest of the family. She takes your son to the mall to buy him a cake. 

Wherever she takes you, she mentions that you are refugees from Ukraine. When you hear that, you ponder your own feelings. These days it’s the key to everything: you can skip a queue, you do not need a green pass to enter a mall, you can take free food at stations and grocery points. But you wonder if you like being referred to like this. Even more, you try to imagine how you would feel if you really had nowhere to go and you left most of your things in Kyiv like many around you, including your children, had.

The rest of the company arrives, now you’re all settled in the apartment, five people and two scared cats, and you can start discussing plans for the future. Where to go, schooling for children, and other logistic arrangements. You can also concentrate on your kids. How are they living through all this? The elder one is silent, as always, the younger one is as playful as always when you travel together, he will later tell you that your spell you spent in Romania feels like a usual travel with dad rather than an escape — a further positive side of having taken them with you across Asia, Africa, and Europe all these years. 

Then you open his suitcase to do an inventory of what you have with you and find his elastic trampoline socks. He had his class last Thursday and you were supposed to go with him, he liked it so much. You can’t stop wondering when (and where) the next class will be.



‘Never Spent a Night in There’: Questions Raised About Mark Meadows Using a Mobile Home as His Voting Address

According to an investigative piece by the New Yorker’s Charles Bethea, former Donald Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is using a mobile home where it appears he has never stayed in his native North Carolina as his voting address.

As Bethea notes, Meadows and his wife sold their home in North Carolina in late March of 2020 and have been living in a condo they own in Virginia, near Washington, D.C. and never bought a new place in his home state.

According to the report, “But, as the summer passed and the election neared, Meadows had not yet purchased a new residence in what had been his home state. On September 19th, about three weeks before North Carolina’s voter-registration deadline for the general election, Meadows filed his paperwork. On a line that asked for his residential address—’where you physically live,’ the form instructs—Meadows wrote down the address of a fourteen-by-sixty-two-foot mobile home in Scaly Mountain. He listed his move-in date for this address as the following day, September 20th.”

However, as the report continues, there appears to be no evidence that Meadows owns the mobile home or has ever made an appearance there.

“Meadows does not own this property and never has. It is not clear that he has ever spent a single night there. (He did not respond to a request for comment.) The previous owner, who asked that we not use her name, now lives in Florida,” Bethea wrote before quoting her describing it as “just a summer home.”

“She only rented it out twice, she told me. The first renter, she said, was Debbie Meadows, who, according to the former owner, reserved the house for two months at some point within the past few years—she couldn’t remember exactly when—but only spent one or two nights there,” the New Yorker report continues. “The Meadowses’ kids had visited the place, too, she said. The former owner was in Florida at the time, but her neighbors, the Talleys, whom she described as friends of the Meadowses’, debriefed her later. As for Mark Meadows, she said, ‘He did not come. He’s never spent a night in there.’”

Writing, “Did Meadows potentially commit voter fraud by listing the Scaly Mountain address on his registration form? It’s a federal crime to provide false information to register to vote in a federal election,” Bethea questioned Melanie D. Thibault, the director of Macon County’s Board of Elections about Meadows’ voter registration form only for her to say, “I’m kind of dumbfounded, to be honest with you.”

“I looked up this Mcconnell Road, which is in Scaly Mountain, and I found out that it was a dive trailer in the middle of nowhere, which I do not see him or his wife staying in,” she added.


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Trump Appointed Judge Claims 1872 Law Outweighs US Constitution in Ruling Favoring Madison Cawthorn

An effort to keep U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn off the North Carolina ballot this year was blocked by a federal judge this Friday, WRAL reports.

The challenge was filed by attorneys who say Cawthorn is an insurrectionist who should be legally barred from the ballot due to his participation in events that led up to the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The attorneys behind the legal effort cited the 14th Amendment, which reads: “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”

READ: Racist bullies mockingly chant ‘Rosa Parks’ as Black girl boards their school bus in Arkansas: report

But Judge Richard E. Myers, the Chief District Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, said that courts must protect the soapbox, the ballot box and the jury box.

“When those fail, that’s when people proceed to the ammunition box,” said Myers, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump in 2019.

Myers cited an 1872 amnesty law passed by Congress, which he said essentially repealed the 14th Amendment’s “disqualification clause.”

“John Wallace, a lawyer for voters who had challenged Cawthorn’s candidacy at the state level, said his group could try to intervene in the federal court proceeding, but that could prove difficult,” reports WRAL. “Those challengers had hoped the elections board would convene an inquiry panel next week under the North Carolina laws that allow voters to challenge a candidate’s qualifications. That panel could have subpoenaed and deposed Cawthorn, as well as others, and Cawthorn sued in federal court to stop the process.”

Cawthorn celebrated the decision on Twitter. “HUGE VICTORY! The left’s lawfare tactics have failed. On to re-election!” he wrote.

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‘Anyone Out There?’: Trump’s Truth Social Is a Ghost Town Where ‘There Isn’t Much Happening’

In an effort to see how things are going after the launch of Donald Trump’s social media platform “Truth Social,” Politico’s Ruby Cramer signed up and found out not much seems to be happening at all, with a distinct lack of engagement among the few fellow subscribers she found.

With the Daily Beast reporting that Trump is furious and screaming obscenities at aides as his signature alternative to Twitter flounders, Cramer reports that the president might have a point about the platform that seems like a ghost town.

As Cramer explained, “The site promises a safe space for ‘free expression,’ encouraging of ‘all viewpoints,’ according to the welcome email, ‘as we do not discriminate against political ideology.’ But inside the app, digital tumbleweeds blew through my feed. The site is a bit slow, and a bit empty. Its stalled roll-out, led by Devin Nunes, the Trump supporter and former Republican congressman from California, has become a source of frustration and confusion in MAGA-world, according to my colleague Meridith McGraw.”

RELATED: Trump’s Truth Social team has ‘fallen on its face’ – and the former president isn’t even using his own app

The Politico journalist notes that some pro-Trump heavyweights like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL) have set up accounts — but they are just putting up the same commentary that they are offering at the far more popular Twitter.

The report also makes mention that those who are waiting for an email saying their account has been approved will likely be disappointed at what they find.

“Trump fans still waiting in line, eager for their chance to search for truth, will find a Twitter knock-off with no immediately discernible improvement on the original — a vanity project that has yet to prove its utility,” she wrote before pronouncing, “Put simply, there isn’t much happening on the site.”

According to Cramer her account was notified about some like-minded users with names like “@CreepyJeffBezos, @HypocriteTrudeau, @FakeHunterBiden”

Cramer adds that she followed some users back, hoping for engagement and nothing happened.

“On Truth Social’s own account page, @truthsocial, site administrators advised users to please be patient as the platform continued to move through its waitlist and address tech bugs and inconsistencies,” she wrote. “Truth Social’s page is filled with memes: a car veering off the highway, away from a sign for ‘Big Tech’ to an exit ramp for ‘Truth Social’; two doors, one for Twitter, showing a vacant room, another for ‘Truth Social,’ with dozens of people trying to get in. But from the inside, Truth Social feels empty.”

“Dan Scavino, Trump’s former deputy chief of staff, appears to be one of the most active users on the site, with 74 Truths and counting. At the bottom of his feed, his first post on the site, published about two weeks ago, showed a picture of a blood-red wave crashing violently on the sea. Above a row of emojis — red heart, white heart, blue heart, American flag, flying eagle — Scavino wrote, ‘THERE ARE MORE OF US — THAN THERE ARE OF THEM!’ the report continued.

However, to make her point about how desolate the social media platform seems, Cramer wrote, “Around 10 a.m., I Truthed my first Truth. ‘Anybody out there?’ I wrote,” before adding, “By the end of the day, no one had responded.”

You can read her whole piece here.


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Viral Video: Trump Brags Putin ‘Was a Friend of Mine I Got Along Great With Him’ – While He Was President

In the video Trump also appears to imply he lied to the Russian autocrat, telling Putin if he bombed the U.S. he would nuke Russia.

“They’re all saying, ‘Oh, he’s a nuclear power,’ it’s like they’re afraid of him,” Trump says in the video with the camera on Daly.

“You know, he was a friend of mine I got along great with him,” Trump tells Daly, as if it is the job of the leader of the free world to “get along great” with a Russian authoritarian who is now, some are saying, a war criminal and a terrorist.

“I say, ‘Vladimir if you do it we’re hitting Moscow. We’re going to hit Moscow,’ Trump continues, apparently speaking about bombing the U.S. “And he sort of believed me like 5%, 10% that’s all you need,” Trump concludes, implying he was not telling the truth.

“He never did it during my time John, you know. They were all talking about it, ‘Why didn’t he do this during the last four years?’ Because he knew he couldn’t.”

Watch video of Trump and Daly, posted by Golf.com’s Tim Reilly:

Trump discussing Russia with John Daly on speaker phone is something else


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Kimberly Guilfoyle Served With Subpoena After Cutting Out on January 6 Committee Interview

Guilfoyle is a former Fox News personality who served as national finance chair for the Trump campaign and happens to be engaged to Donald Trump, Jr.

“The Select Committee has evidence that Guilfoyle was in direct contact with key individuals, raised funds for the rally immediately preceding the violent attack on the Capitol, and participated in that event,” the Committee announced.

Guilfoyle last week participated in a virtual, voluntary interview but cut it short when she learned Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) would be participating.

The Select Committee has issued a subpoena for Kimberly Guilfoyle.


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