The Lead Feb. 25, 2022: Parents ask Kerrville schools to remove "pornographic" books

The request comes from a couple, yet mirrors one playing out across Texas.

Good morning, Kerr County!

There's a stormy weekend ahead for us in Kerr County, with rain coming Saturday. On Thursday, we had just enough ice to be annoying across the Hill Country. The weekend weather situation looks rainy — at least until Sunday morning.

On Today's The Lead Live!

Andrew Gay fills in as host today, and he's going to provide some financial updates. Expect Kerrville Pets Alive President Karen Guerriero to stop by, and Ashley Phillips of the Hill Country Youth Ranch will break some news on this morning's show. The fun starts at 9 a.m.

Some key stories we're following

The Hill Country's own Irene Van Winkle makes news

Irene Van Winkle, the everywhere journalist for the West Kerr Current and as a freelancer for the Hill Country Community Journal, made some headlines of her own on Thursday by attending demonstrations against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Van Winkle is the child of Ukrainian immigrants who made their way to the United States after World War II.

"There circling everything, all the other countries around Ukraine, but not going into the country where the fighting is actually happening. Isn't that ironic?" Van Winkle told Texas Public Radio.


Read more about Van Winkle's attendance at protests in San Antonio on Thursday:

Voelkel drops out of race for Mayor

Vincent Voelkel exited the race for Kerrville mayor, leaving a two-way race for the job. Voelkel didn't explain his departure. However, that leaves Brent Bates, a contractor suing the city in federal court, and Place 3 City Councilwoman Judy Eychner in a race to succeed Bill Blackburn as mayor.

12th COVID-19 fatality in February

Kerr County had its 12th COVID-19 death in February and it's 30th since Jan. 1, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. While the number of positive cases and hospitalizations continue to fall, the number of fatalities hasn't leveled off — yet. The latest Kerr County death happened on Feb. 11.

New farmers market announced

After being turned down by the Kerr County Commissioner's Court, the Heart of the Hills Farmers Market found a home at the River Hills Mall — on Saturdays. The market, which got slammed by Pct. 1 Commissioner Harley Belew for misrepresenting itself, said it plans to open with 10 vendors on April 2. If there's rain, the market can move inside to the mall. More information:

Things to do today

Kerrville Farmers Market

Friday 4 – 6 PM

A.C. Schreiner House

Live music by Tim Porter and Gary Hatch

Cafe at the Ridge, Kerrville

6 p.m.


Bexar Regional Dog Show

Hill Country Youth Event Center

Times TBD, runs through Sunday.

Dogs run and jump as their handlers direct them through an obstacle course. Competitors of all levels. This is a free event and open to the public.

Live music by Voodoo Lengua

Trailhead Beer Garden at Schreiner University

7 p.m.

Schreiner University Student Activities Board presents the Trailhead Live Performance Series, welcoming back VOODOO LENGUA to the Trailhead Outdoor Stage. Come rock out to a unique Hill Country Band. Food Court: Burger 830

Here we go . . . banning books moves to the forefront

A Kerrville couple launched the first local salvo asking a school district to remove books that they deem offensive — or pornographic — and it's just the start.

On Monday night, Kerrville parents Brandon and Clarissa Aery presented a list of 17 books, including one that Disney is adapting into a movie, that Kerrville Independent School District libraries should remove.

"Aside from the pornographic material contained in many of these books, there are also books that contain controversial LGBTQ storylines (which is confusing for elementary-aged children), pervasive vulgarity, gender mutilation, rape, incest, encouragement of sexual activity amongst young children, etc," the couple said in a letter presented to the KISD Board of Trustees. "We are requesting that the district immediately remove the following books from the libraries and begin further researching/auditing other books in the libraries to identify books that do not reflect the values of the community and violate state law."

Trustee Greg Peschel said after listening to an excerpt from one of the books, which described anal sex, he wanted to know the district's policy for placing books in libraries.

However, Peschel said the books on the list weren't necessarily bad but questioned the age-appropriateness of some. However, none of the 17 books presented are surprises — almost all are among the most challenged books in libraries in the U.S.

"I knew it was only a matter of time," Peschel said of the request.

The Aerys are no strangers to speaking at school board meetings. They have previously argued against mask mandates and questioned the use of social-emotional learning strategies.

The book "Better Nate Than Ever," is being made into a movie for Disney's streaming service, with a release date of sometime later this year. The book is frequently the subject of parental complaint because it's about a middle-school boy becoming attracted to other boys. The book's author, Tim Federle, has written about the comedic book's banishment.

"All kinds of people deserve all kinds of stories," Federle said in a 2012 blog post. "When you support books that feature diverse kids, you're telling those kids that you support them, too—that they are, more than anything, okay. The opposite is true when you shut those kinds of books down."

Across Texas, school districts have faced mounting criticism from conservative groups about the subject matter in school libraries — mostly about sexuality and race. Peschel said the parents told trustees the books in question were found in the Hal Peterson Middle School Library.

Last year, Texas state Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) began investigating 850 books as the House Committing on General Investigations chairman. Currently running for Tarrant County District Attorney, Krause requested the Texas Education Agency to review the books. Krause won a major victory this week when Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion defining transgender or sex-reassignment medical procedures as child abuse.

Most of the books on Krause's list deal with sexual health, identity and race.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also weighed in on the controversy in November by ordering TEA to find pornographic books in school libraries.

The 17 books presented were:

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, written by Jesse Andrews.

  • Reason for controversy: The subject matter features drug use and a depiction of oral sex.
  • Synopsis: Greg Gaines is the last master of high school espionage, able to disappear at will into any social environment. He has only one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time making movies, their incomprehensible versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics. Until Greg's mother forces him to rekindle his childhood friendship with Rachel.
  • On Matt Krause List: Yes

This One Summer, written by Mariko Tamaki

  • Reason for controversy: The book has ample profanity, and the central story arc is about teen pregnancy. Website Common Sense Media said dialogue in This One Summer contains about a dozen instances each of "s–t," "f–k," and "a–hole." "Boobs," "prick," "douche bag," "slut," and "butt" are employed a few times each.
  • Synopsis: The book earned the prestigious Caldecott Medal in 2015 and is a graphic novel. Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach every summer. It's their getaway, their refuge. Rosie's friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose's mom and dad won't stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. One of the local teens – just a couple of years older than Rose and Windy – is caught up in something wrong… Something life-threatening.
  • On Matt Krause List: Yes

The Perks of Being a Wall Flower, written by Stephen Chbosky

  • Reason for controversy: It has sex.
  • Synopsis: First dates, family drama, and new friends. Sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Devastating loss, young love, and life on the fringes. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie must learn to navigate those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.
  • On Matt Krause List: No.

A Good Kind of Trouble, written by Lisa Moore Ramee

  • Reason for controversy: It's about Black Lives Matter.
  • Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Shayla is allergic to trouble. All she wants to do is to follow the rules. (Oh, and she'd also like to make it through seventh grade with her best friendships intact, learn to run track, and have a cute boy see past her giant forehead.) But in junior high, it's like all the rules have changed. Now she's suddenly questioning who her best friends are, and some people at school are saying she's not black enough. Wait, what? Shay's sister, Hana, is involved in Black Lives Matter, but Shay doesn't think that's for her. After experiencing a powerful protest, though, Shay decides some rules are worth breaking. She starts wearing an armband to school in support of the Black Lives movement. Soon everyone is taking sides. And she is given an ultimatum.
  • On Matt Krause List: Yes

The Kite Runner, written by Khaled Hosseini

  • Reason for controversy: It describes rape, and conservatives criticized its depiction of Islam.
  • Synopsis: The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father's servant, caught in the tragic sweep of history, The Kite Runner transports readers to Afghanistan at a tense and crucial moment of change and destruction.
  • On Matt Krause List: No.

Milk & Honey, written by Rupi Kaur

  • Reason for controversy: The author writes about her sexual abuse.
  • Synopsis: A collection of poetry and prose about survival. About the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss and femininity.
  • On Matt Krause List: No.

George, written by Alex Gino

  • Reason for controversy: Transgender issues.
  • Synopsis: When people look at Melissa, they think they see a boy named George. But she knows she's not a boy. She knows she's a girl. Melissa thinks she'll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte's Web. Melissa really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can't even try out for the part… because she's a boy.
  • On Matt Krause List: Yes

I am Jazz, written by Jessica Herthel

  • Reason for controversy: Transgender issues.
  • Synopsis: From the time she was two years old, Jazz knew that she had a girl's brain in a boy's body. She loved pink and dressing up as a mermaid and didn't feel like herself in boys' clothing. This confused her family, until they took her to a doctor who said that Jazz was transgender and that she was born that way.
  • On Matt Krause List: Yes

A court of Mist and Fury, written by Sarah J. Maas

  • Reason for controversy: LGBTQ content, sex and gore.
  • Synopsis: As her marriage to Tamlin approaches, Feyre's hollowness and nightmares consume her. She finds herself split into two different people: one who upholds her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court, and one who lives out her life in the Spring Court with Tamlin. While Feyre navigates a dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms. She might just be the key to stopping it, but only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future–and the future of a world in turmoil.
  • On Matt Krause List: No

Girls Like Us, Christina Alger

  • Reason for controversy: We aren't exactly sure. Another book with a similar name is about transgender and sexual abuse issues. Considering the subject matter, the book in question would have adult themes.
  • Synopsis: From the celebrated and bestselling author of The Banker's Wife, worlds collide when an FBI agent investigates a string of grisly murders on Long Island that raises the impossible question: What happens when the primary suspect is your father?
  • On Matt Krause List: No.

Looking for Alaska, John Green

  • Reason for controversy: Sexual content and language.
  • Synopsis: Miles "Pudge" Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave "the Great Perhaps" even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart
  • On Matt Krause List: No.

Fun Home, written by Alison Bechdel

  • Reason for controversy: LGBTQ subject matter.
  • Synopsis: Distant and exacting, Bruce Bechdel was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, which Alison and her family referred to as the "Fun Home." It was not until college that Alison, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A few weeks after this revelation, he was dead, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve.
  • On Matt Krause List: No.

L8R;G8R, Lauren Myracle

  • Reason for controversy: Prevalent sexual content, use of profanity, and shorthand language. This book is frequently the subject of banishment.
  • Synopsis: Imagine reading a bunch of teen text messages — that's this book. Through their instant messages, three inseparable friends have shared the ups and downs of high school. They've survived a flirtatious teacher, a witchy classmate, a pot-smoking smoocher, a Care Bear toting stalker, and much, much more.
  • On Matt Krause List: No.

Beyond Magenta: Transgender teens speak out, Susank Kuklin

  • Reason for controversy: Transgender issues.
  • Synopsis: Author and photographer Susan Kuklin met and interviewed six transgender or gender-neutral young adults and used her considerable skills to represent them thoughtfully and respectfully before, during, and after their personal acknowledgment of gender preference.
  • On Matt Krause List: Yes

Monday's Not Coming, Tiffany D. Jackson

  • Reason for controversy: Sexual content.
  • Synopsis: Monday Charles is missing, and only Claudia seems to notice. Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable—more sisters than friends. So when Monday doesn't turn up for the first day of school, Claudia's worried. When she doesn't show for the second day, or second week, Claudia knows that something is wrong. Monday wouldn't just leave her to endure tests and bullies alone. Not after last year's rumors and not with her grades on the line. Now Claudia needs her best—and only—friend more than ever. But Monday's mother refuses to give Claudia a straight answer, and Monday's sister April is even less help. As Claudia digs deeper into her friend's disappearance, she discovers that no one seems to remember the last time they saw Monday. How can a teenage girl just vanish without anyone noticing that she's gone?
  • On Matt Krause List: No.

Drama, written by Raina Telgemeier

  • Reason for controversy: LGBTQ subject matter.
  • Synopsis: Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school's production of Moon over Mississippi, she can't really sing. Instead she's the set designer for the drama department's stage crew, and this year she's determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn't know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen. And when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier!
  • On Matt Krause List: Yes

Better Nate than Ever, written by Tim Federle

  • Reason for controversy: LGBTQ subject matter.
  • Synopsis: Nate Foster has big dreams. His whole life, he's wanted to star in a Broadway show. (Heck, he'd settle for seeing a Broadway show.) But how is Nate supposed to make his dreams come true when he's stuck in Jankburg, Pennsylvania, where no one (except his best pal Libby) appreciates a good show tune? With Libby's help, Nate plans a daring overnight escape to New York. There's an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical, and Nate knows this could be the difference between small-town blues and big-time stardom.
  • On Matt Krause List: No, but Federle is on the list twice, including for the sequel to Better Nate than Ever.

Schreiner University basketball teams open up tournament play today

The Schreiner University men's and women's basketball teams play quarterfinal games today in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament at Austin College in Sherman.

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