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Plan to turn Houston school libraries into ‘team centers’ for misbehaving students draws ire



Texas‘ largest school district has come under fire for stating it would eliminate its libraries and the roles of librarians and other staffers to create spaces for misbehaved children.

In the next school year, the Houston Independent School District will turn the libraries at 28 campuses into “team centers,” where students will continue to learn remotely, a decision that comes as part of superintendent Mike Miles’ “new education system” initiative, according to The Guardian.

These centers won’t have a specialized librarian. Miles, appointed by the Texas Education Agency in June, said students who need extra assistance can “catch up” and have more contact with teachers and learning coaches, KHOU 11 News reported.

The largest school district in Texas has come under fire for stating it would turn school libraries into “team centers” plus eliminate the roles of librarians and media specialists at 28 campuses to create spaces for misbehaved children. (Photo: Adobe Stock)

The library closures follow the state’s announcement that it will take over the district beginning with the 2023–24 school year due to poor academic results.

“I am overwhelmingly proud that this many HISD school leaders are ready to take bold action to improve outcomes for all students and eradicate the persistent achievement and opportunity gaps in our district,” Miles said, The Guardian reported.

Miles stated that the management of books in libraries would be up to the discretion of school principals and instructors. He noted that children could pull books off the shelves in his previous system and were trusted to put them back, reported KHOU 11 News.

Kelli Benes, CEO of a nonprofit organization called First3Years, which aims to help Texans aged 3 and younger grow up in a healthy environment, said attacks on libraries undermine the effort of providing children with a foundation to learn.

She said most of impacted librarians “are less concerned about their own employment and more concerned about the lack of access that their students will now have.”

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner blasted the district’s decision, arguing that restricting access to books was not the appropriate response to the issue of inappropriate behavior, particularly in underserved communities.

He recommended schools keep their libraries open to prevent the district from becoming divided into two tiers and to offer more assistance to students who require it.

“Are there students who need additional support? Yes, and I am 100% supportive of that. But it’s not an either/or,” Turner said, The Guardian reported. “You don’t close the libraries, remove the librarians, and simply have the books on the shelf. What about all the other students? What are you saying to them?”

According to KHOU, the remaining 57 schools participating in Miles’ NES program will be assessed case-by-case.

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