“They’re trying to pretend the world is very different from what it really is,” said 16-year-old Tommy Rogers of Grapevine Colleyville ISD’s board.
GRAPEVINE, Texas — Anyone who thinks students aren’t watching raucous meetings or listening to heated debates at the highest levels of the district needs to meet Tommy Rogers.
He said the students saw everything and heard everything.
“Books mean everything to me, and I can’t stand the thought of taking books from me or other students,” Rogers said.
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Rogers is a 16-year-old junior at Grapevine High School in the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District (GCISD).
With the approval of the school, he has just established a “challenging theme reading club” at Grapevine High School.
He and other club members were reading some of the books banned by his board.
GCISD went through a nearly 8-hour school board meeting in August.
At that meeting, the trustees approved new guidelines governing pronouns, bathrooms and books.
Of the 197 people who signed up to speak at that meeting, Rogers was the 153rd speaker.
“You try to put people in boxes they don’t fit in because people who are different will scare you,” he told the board. “I don’t care if you live in an ignorant world, but don’t impose it on the next generation.”
After that meeting, Rogers set out to work on his ideas.
He found a teacher who was willing to be class president and then submitted all the proper paperwork to start a club.
Rogers said school administrators called him for a meeting before signing off on his plan.
Once approved by them, the Challenge Themed Book Club was officially launched.
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The club meets twice a month after school on campus.
They made a list of books curated by Rogers.
“It’s not purely from the books that were withdrawn from our school, because I think there are some equally important books that haven’t been withdrawn,” he explained.
At each meeting, they discuss what they’ve read and choose a book for the next meeting.
Many of the books they read have challenged themes – such as sexual assault, racism and homosexuality.
Rogers said removing these topics from high school shelves was an attempt to purify reality.
“They’re trying to limit our education, they’re trying to pretend some of my friends — queer students — don’t exist. They’re trying to pretend the world is very different from what it is,” he said. “I don’t want my classmates to be blinded by this.”
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Rogers is also concerned that only the right age group will have access to the material.
“I don’t think elementary students or young children should read explicit scenes or explicit content, but I think it’s ridiculous to think that high school students can’t deal with racism or sexual violence themes,” he said.
“They’re trying to keep us out of homosexuality. They’re trying to purge us from our human nature. It’s ridiculous.”
So far, Rogers says no one has opposed him.
Members of the group GCISD Parents, which backed the recent policy change, said the Rogers Club “demonstrates that the policy is being implemented as intended and that students have access to books on controversial topics with parental consent.”
“We thank our board of directors for passing this policy and are pleased that Tommy Rogers has been able to share his love of reading with other Grapevine High School students within the framework of the policy,” the group said in a statement.