Governor Greg Abbott calls for criminal investigation into availability of ‘porn books’ in public schools

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Govt. Greg Abbott on Wednesday called on the Texas Education Agency to investigate criminal activity related to “the availability of pornography” in public schools, saying the agency should refer such cases “for prosecution to the fullest extent permitted by law “.

It’s unclear why Abbott assigned the TEA to lead the investigation and not the state’s police branch. The TEA does not employ law enforcement officers, according to state statusand a spokesperson for the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement confirmed Wednesday that the education agency does not have licensed peace officers.

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Abbott’s request comes two days after he asked the agencyworking with the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and the State Board of Education, to develop statewide standards preventing “obscene content in Texas public schools”.

While these standards are being developed, Abbott has written to the TEA in his letter on Wednesday“more immediate action is needed to protect Texas students” from such inappropriate content, which he said is “a clear violation” of state law.

TEA officials could not immediately be contacted.

The Texas Department of Public Safety generally investigates potential criminal activity within agencies that do not have their own law enforcement branch.

However, state law gives broad authority to the Texas Commissioner of Education, who oversees the TEA. According to the state’s education code, “the agency shall conduct hearings involving public school law” under the direction and supervision of the commissioner, which could be construed by the TEA as the vehicle to be used for investigate any criminal activity.

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Any civilian can also go directly to a prosecutor to provide what they consider to be evidence of a crime, but in most cases prosecutors then refer the case to a law enforcement agency. law to independently investigate before pursuing any legal action, according to Shannon Edmonds, director of government relations for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association.

As for who could be prosecuted in the probe Abbott has requested, Edmonds said that depends.

Under the state criminal code, a person commits a felony if they knowingly display or distribute harmful material to a minor, or recklessly display it in the presence of a minor. Harmful sexual material is defined as “obviously offensive by the standards prevailing in the adult community as a whole regarding what is appropriate for minors”. Most violations under this law are a Class A misdemeanor, which can result in up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.

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However, the penal code also states that a defense to prosecution is that the material was exhibited by someone “having scientific, educational, governmental, or other similar justification.”

“That will be where the battle could take place,” Edmonds said.

In Abbott’s directive earlier this week on statewide standards, he cited two memoirs about LGBTQ characters that include graphic images and depictions of gender, including “Gender Queer: A Memoir.” by Maia Kobabe. The Keller Independent School District recently removed the book from one of its high school libraries after some parents raised concerns about the novel.

Kobabe’s book chronicles the author’s journey with gender identity and, at times, includes illustrations of oral sex and other sexual content, as well as discussions of pronouns, acceptance and medication. blocking hormones.

Abbott also mentioned “In the Dream House” by Carmen Maria Machado, which the governor said in his letter earlier this week was recently removed from classrooms in the Leander Independent School District. This book is a memoir that examines an abusive relationship between two women.

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Abbott’s request follows other Texas Republicans targeting certain books in public schools.

State Representative Matt Krause of Fort Worth, who is running for state attorney general, recently launched a survey of the types of books students can access in Texas schools, which included a list of 850 books. Titles on the list range from children’s books and anti-bullying advice to novels that deal with racism and sexuality.

State Representative Jeff Casson of Bedford, meanwhile, appealed to the Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to launch a statewide investigation into Kobabe’s novel and others with similar content. The attorney general’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

This is a developing story; come back for more.

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