Will Southlake approve of the use of a book by a slave’s grandson at school bearing his name?
A book about the grandson of a slave who learned to read aged 98 is currently being reviewed for use at the school named after him in Southlake.
The book, Life is so beautiful, tells the story of George Dawson’s life, from segregation and the civil rights movement to learning to read at age 98. It is one of about 10 under review by Carroll ISD.
Social media posts circulating this week suggest he has been banned from the college that bears his name.
But Brandie Egan, the district’s communications coordinator, said in a statement that the book was not banned or reviewed through the district’s challenge process.
Egan noted that a teacher wanted to use it as required reading in a seventh grade classroom. A district team — made up of teachers, principals and program coordinators — reviewed it this summer along with other requests for required readings.
“It has been determined that the content of certain sections of this book is not appropriate for this age group,” Egan wrote. The process to assess which sections of the book are appropriate is still ongoing, she added. “To our knowledge, the book in its entirety was not used for teaching in the last year.”
Excerpts from the books had been used in lessons last year, Egan confirmed.
District documents note that a review of the book, which was to be used in a journalism class, has been “filed” until the committee can speak to the school principal.
Typically, districts have various processes for approving materials for use in classrooms and others for placement in libraries.
Materials that are part of an examination for use of the program are not necessarily made unavailable to students under current district policy.
There is a college in Southlake named after George Dawson. The grandson of a slave, he learned to read at 98 and co-wrote a book about his life’s journey at 103.
— Southlake Together (@Southlake4All) August 22, 2022
Some community members remain concerned and have taken to social media, saying the district is using semantics to avoid saying the book is banned.
The review comes as more and more books — especially those featuring stories about people of color or LGBT characters — are being challenged in school.
Dawson gained worldwide attention for his 2000 memoir and has been featured on the Discovery Channel, Oprah, Nightline and in People magazine. The grandson of slaves, he became a face of literacy before his death in 2001 at the age of 103.
The campus, which opened in 2002, was named after Dawson after former Carroll school administrator Jerry Lawrence suggested it. He was inspired by his son, who had heard Dawson speak while promoting his memoir.
Carroll ISD is the subject of a federal civil rights investigation by the Department of Education, which relates to allegations of discrimination in Southlake schools in November 2021.
The affluent, predominantly white neighborhood has become a symbol of what the backlash against critical race theory looks like in schools.
It gained national attention after an administrator advised educators to teach students about the Holocaust from “opposing” angles, according to an audio recording obtained by NBC News.
The investigation was one of three opened by the federal government last year in the school district — which has been at the center of an ongoing firestorm over how to handle diversity and inclusion.
Many districts in the state are also involved in book fights.
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