Texas Gov. Greg Abbott directed Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath on Wednesday to investigate criminal activity involving the availability of pornography in the state’s public schools, saying the agency should refer such instances “for prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.”
In a letter to Morath, the governor noted recent reports that Texas students have been exposed to pornographic books and content in public schools across the state.
Earlier this week, Abbott told the Texas Association of School Boards that a growing number of both students and parents across the state were becoming increasingly alarmed about some of the books and other content found in public school libraries that are being deemed inappropriate in the public education system.
“The presence of pornography in schools is not only inappropriate, but it is also against the law. In Texas, it is illegal to provide pornography to anyone under the age of 18 according to Section 43.24 of the Texas Penal Code,” Abbott wrote in his letter to Morath.
“The fact that pornographic material that serves no educational purpose has been made available to students in Texas public schools is a clear violation of the law…While the Texas Association of School Boards has refused to assist their member school boards to address this issue, the State of Texas must act for the sake of Texas students and parents,” the Texas governor said.
“That is why I am directing the Texas Education Agency to investigate any criminal activity in our public schools involving the availability of pornography. During this investigation, I ask the agency to refer any instance of pornography being provided to minors under the age of 18 for prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.”
Abbott added that the state has a responsibility to “ensure that no Texas child is exposed to pornography or obscene content while in a Texas public school,” and that the agency’s investigation into such instances will “help accomplish this mission.”
Abbott previously directed the Texas Education Agency, the State Board of Education, and the Texas State Library and Archives Commission to start developing statewide standards that will help curb the presence of pornographic content “and other obscene content in Texas public schools,” according to the letter.
The issue first came to light at Keller school district in suburban Fort Worth, after it announced last week that it had removed a book on gender identity from its school library following complaints by parents that it contained graphic images.
The novel, called “Gender Queer: a Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, contains graphic drawings depicting oral sex. Soon after it was removed from Texas schools, it was also banned in a school district in Florida and challenged at schools in Rhode Island, New Jersey, Ohio, and Washington.