Jerry Craft: Black author 'canceled' in Texas school district after anti-CRT protest
Parents from the Katy Independent School District signed an online petition that said Jerry Craft's writing had 'overt Critical Race Theory teachings'
KATY, TEXAS: Jerry Craft is the New York Times bestselling author of the graphic novel, ‘New Kid’. The award-winning author and the creator of ‘Mama’s Boyz’, an award-winning comic strip (it reportedly won the African American Literary Award five times), found his work and appearances objected to, by a group of parents at the Katy Independent School District.
As per a report in the School Library Journal, parents in Katy demanded that school officials cancel Craft’s October virtual author visit and “stop the promotion of” his book ‘New Kid’ and the sequel ‘Class Act’. The report stated that a petition, which had 444 signatures as of Friday morning, October 1, claimed, “Author Jerry Craft is scheduled to have a Zoom call with elementary-aged students at over 30 Katy ISD schools on October 4, 2021. This petition is to ask KISD administration and superintendent to cancel the Zoom call and stop the promotion of these books which are wrought with critical race theory in the form of teaching children that their white privilege inherently comes with microaggressions which must be kept in check.”
While the online petition has allegedly been removed now, it insinuated that Craft's writings were “being promoted to the students and their parents without any notice of the overt Critical Race Theory teachings throughout both books. Craft himself discusses the teaching of microaggressions in these graphic novels. He laughs about how he had to make the stories funny in order to make sure the point about the inherent racism in schools and society are made.”
The Houston Chronicle reported on Monday, October 4, the event has been “quietly canceled” and his books have been pulled from libraries following the outrage from the small group of parents. Craft’s books are currently under review, said Laura Davis, media relations for Katy ISD. The now-gone petition was reportedly authored by former Katy ISD board of trustees candidate Bonnie Anderson. Anderson made headlines last spring for suing the district for $100,000 for having a mask mandate in the 2020-21 school year. She filed the lawsuit along with parents Jenny Alexander, Doug Alexander, Heather Calhoun, and Stephen Calhoun.
Katy ISD said in a statement that any parent can challenge a library book and doing so will result in the books being pulled for review. “Any Katy ISD parent who chooses to challenge a library selection is encouraged to follow the District’s Board Policy EF (Local) that outlines the process for a formal challenge of an instructional resource,” the statement said. “Katy ISD library books are routinely reviewed through this process.”
While the event was canceled and the books were pulled, the statement said that students may still read the book outside school district hours if they choose. “Pending the outcome of a review committee, school day activities associated with the selection under review are temporarily placed on hold,” the statement said. “School activities pertaining to selections under review and hosted outside of the instructional day, however, may continue as a formal review process takes place.”
The Chronicle reported that in a community forum for the district, many parents railed against the decision. “We are new to the district, and I am so ashamed to be associated with this racist mentality,” one mother said. “We will all be judged by their ignorance.” Another mother said, “These books are amazing, and it’s infuriating to see lies, ignorance, and hate prevent our KISD students from experiencing this author and his works as part of their education.”
The parents also said that a petition with 400 signatures represented a small percentage of children in the district. “A whopping 444 parents signed the petition… for a district of over 88,000… Seriously?” a parent reportedly commented.
Jeynelle Branch, the mother of a sixth-grade student in Katy ISD, spoke with the Chronicle. She said her son was going to attend the event, adding that the books were about more than just race. She said they taught showing compassion to people who are different.
“People like to think that in a district like Katy ISD, no one gets called names, and everything is sunshine and rainbows,” Branch said. “But it’s not true, and it extends beyond race, even. What about the kids on buses who get dropped off at apartment complexes or even hotels while their peers get dropped off at a million-dollar home? Kindness to those kids matters too.”
Branch called the district’s actions “a stain on the district,” adding that families who might be considering coming to the area could reconsider knowing the district bows to racially-based censorship instigated by a small number of parents. “It’s sending a message that there are people in the community that don’t matter,” she said. “Kids should be able to pick up a book and learn about another person’s perspective, and they’ve taken that off the shelves.”