Textbook Censorship Comes to Cy-Fair ISD

Bryan James Henry
4 min readMay 8, 2024

In the middle of the night…in (school board meetings)…you should see things (they) do…

On May 6, 2024, the Cypress-Fairbanks ISD Board of Trustees met in a regular session to discuss looming budget cuts. Hundreds of residents showed up to attend and speak, but the substance of the meeting didn’t start for over an hour and half due to much deserved end-of-year recognitions for CFISD students. After the recognitions portion of the meeting, the “real” meeting began. Dozens of residents, from parents to educators to students, spoke passionately during the “Citizen Participation” segment about proposed budget cuts, the value of librarians, and the failure of state leaders like Governor Greg Abbott to adequately fund public schools. Then, dozens more, including a former CFISD board member and state representative, spoke on the agenda item for the budget.

It was civic engagement at its finest (one would think). The passion that Cy-Fair residents have for their public schools should be applauded and seen as a blessing. Superintendent Dr. Doug Killian, however, admonished the attendees who left the meeting early after making their remarks and proceeded to lecture the community about why they and the district were just as much to blame for the budget cuts as anyone in state government. It was a long night, but arguably the worst part came toward the end when the trustees inexplicably voted 6–1 to remove entire chapters from textbooks. It was a shockingly reckless and brazen decision.

So, what happened? On agenda item 7B Trustee Natalie Blasingame made a motion to remove entire chapters from instructional resources recently approved by the State Board of Education and adopted by Cy-Fair ISD. What type of topics did Blasingame object to? Vaccines, climate change, and depopulation. Christine Kalmbach seconded Blasingame’s motion and explained that there was a total of 25 books and 13 chapters that were being revised. Let’s be clear: this is censorship. An idea or image is typically censored because it is violent, sexually explicit, or offends a political and/or religious worldview. It follows that the ideas contained in these textbooks offend Dr. Blasingame’s political or religious worldview.

As many know, the SBOE is already a very conservative body that regularly rejects and revises textbooks based on conservative political and religious objections. The idea that a textbook would then be under further scrutiny by a school board trustee is outrageous. It seems that if an instructional resource contradicts the personal political and religious views of Natalie Blasingame, then it must be revised or censored. She is imposing her personal worldview onto the public schools that serve over 118,000 students.

The subjects targeted by Blasingame and Kalmbach included biology, environmental science, earth systems, principles of education and training, and health science. Justin Ray asked for an explanation of “what we are omitting and why.” Blasingame stated that, “concerns [were] expressed across the state and district” but did not elaborate or provide specifics on the nature of the concerns. She then followed up by stating that the earth systems textbook had an “agenda out of the United Nations” and that the environmental science textbook promoted the perspective that “humans are bad.”

In further discussion about how to implement such a proposal to delete entire chapters within textbooks, Dr. Linda Macias, the district’s Associate Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction, stated that the district had the ability to turn off/on specific chapters on digital devices. In other words, the district could censor learning materials with precision much like the Chinese Communist Party censors the internet for its citizens. Julie Hinaman, the only trustee to question the motion and vote against it, argued that textbooks chosen by content experts should not be altered based on a single trustee’s objections. Dr. Blasingame stated that the recommendations were the result of a “deep dive” by the Academic, Safety, Vision, and Planning Committee who “committed large amounts of time to go in and read and look for those things.”

Again, to “look for those things.” What things? Anything that doesn’t align with Dr. Blasingame’s personal political and religious worldview? The book banning has officially gone beyond fiction and the school library to the realm of simply deleting content from instructional resources that elected officials object to. It is outrageous that a trustee attempted to exercise this level of ideological influence and micromanagement over instructional resources, and alarming that a super-majority of trustees would help her do so. It is obvious this was wrong. The important question is whether it was legal.

One of Cy-Fair’s state representatives, Republican Tom Oliverson, publicly praised the decision on social media.

It’s unclear where the Lone Star State is headed or how bad things will get before they get better. Texas has been ground-zero for far-right legislation and Christian Nationalism for years, but these latest developments portend a coming darkness that may make the last few years seem pleasant.