KATY MAGAZINE NEW
October 5, 2021
By Natalie Cook Clark
Katy ISD canceled an author’s visit over parent concerns. Now New York Times Bestselling author and illustrator Jerry Craft’s award-winning books have been pulled from school libraries pending an official review.
Author Jerry Craft Talk Canceled
Many Katy 3rd-5th graders were looking forward to meeting with author and illustrator Jerry Craft via Zoom. That meeting was canceled after a group of Katy parents raised concerns over the books referencing critical race theory.
Craft is the winner of the 2020 Newberry Medal, the Coretta Scott King Author Award, and the Kirkus Prize for his graphic novel, “New Kid” and its sequel “Class Act.”
Katy mom Bonnie Anderson received the flyer from her twin third grader’s school, like many Katy parents did.
“I review all of their instructional material whether it’s a math worksheet or something like this,” says Bonnie Anderson, who previously ran for a Katy ISD Board of Trustee position.
Anderson read Jerry Craft’s books and grew concerned over how racism was presented in them and believes they push a critical race theory curriculum.
According to Anderson, the book depicts white children displaying microaggressions to children on color. She admits that the books do not come out and say, ‘we want white children to feel like oppressors,' but that is what she feels the books do.
SB 3739 became law on September 1 and prohibits schools from presenting critical race theory material in social studies.
“This is very subversive because they aren’t calling it Critical Race Theory and it’s not being presented in social studies,” says Anderson.
Anderson created a petition that had 500 signatures before Change.org removed it for violating their policies.
Many Other Parents Are Upset Over Cancelation
While those 500 parents are upset, many feel just the opposite.
“I hope the school board will listen to all of the parents of the community and not just a few that are upset,” says Katy mom Angie Waller, who encourages parents to read the books for themselves.
According to Craft’s website, “New Kid is a timely, honest novel about starting over at a new school where diversity is low and the struggle to fit in is real.”
“The struggles the main character experiences still happen today,” says Waller. “It’s important that all students are exposed to real life. Even if they’ve never experienced it themselves, they should learn what their friends and other classmates have experienced.”
Statement from Katy ISD:
“Any Katy ISD parent who chooses to challenge a library selection is encouraged to follow the District’s Board Policy EF (Local) that outlines the process for a formal challenge of an instructional resource. Katy ISD library books are routinely reviewed through this process. Pending the outcome of a review committee, school day activities associated with the selection under review are temporarily placed on hold. School activities pertaining to selections under review and hosted outside of the instructional day, however, may continue as a formal review process takes place.”
Anderson has addressed her concerns to Superintendent Dr. Ken Gregorski and the Katy ISD Board of Trustees.
“I’m not into banning books,” says Anderson. “If people want their kids reading this go for it. They are widely available, but this shouldn’t have a place in a tax funded school.”
“This perpetuates racism and it could create a division among children,” says Anderson. “This teaches students that it’s hard to get along and could make children not want to be friends with other children of different colors after reading it. There are plenty of good literature out there about true racism.”
While Jerry Craft hasn’t responded to Katy Magazine’s questions, he is active on Twitter retweeting tweets of Katy students reading his books in response to the cancelation of his visit.
Universal Pictures to Make a Movie
Universal Pictures has acquired film rights to “New Kid,” with LeBron James’ The Spring Hill Company on board to develop and produce.
Katy ISD Extends New Invitation to Craft
Katy ISD has invited Jerry Craft to speak to students outside of the instructional day.