On August 23 2022, an Imgur account shared an image claiming that a school in Texas had banned a book authored by George Dawson — the same person for whom the school was named:
On the same day, a Twitter account tweeted about the purported book banning:
A brief video clip (37 seconds in length) was attached to the tweet. It was not a news story, nor did it seem to have much to do with the claim that a book written by George Dawson was “banned” at a school named for him in Texas.
According to his 2001 obituary in the Washington Post, Dawson was a Texas man and the grandson of a slave who was especially notable for learning to read at age 98. Dawson later published a book, Life is So Good:
In 1996, a literacy volunteer knocked on Mr. Dawson’s door in a poor area of south Dallas. Told adult education courses were being taught a few blocks away at the old high school, Mr. Dawson responded eagerly, “Wait, I’ll get my coat.”
He became an inspiration to students of all ages. A new middle school in a Dallas suburb has been named in his honor, as well as a perpetual reading garden at Sarah Zumwalt Middle School in Dallas.
The Discovery Channel, “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Nightline,” People magazine and “Good Morning America” profiled his life. Two universities awarded him honorary degrees.
The story noted that a middle school was named for him in a Dallas suburb — specifically, Southlake, Texas. As for the Imgur post, it showed an August 23 2022 BoingBoing.com item, “Book banned at a school named after its author,” which hinged largely on the following tweet:
That included an August 22 2022 tweet (above) by another account making the same claim. A third person asked for a source, and the initial commenter said that a source was “not available online”:
In the screenshot, a document titled “CISD [2022-2023] Book Committee” was attached, with a table. In the table’s first cell, an entry for Life is So Good appeared, followed by a comment:
Tabled until we can talk to principal.
A verified Twitter account for the district (@CarrollISD) did not tweet about or reply to any questions or discussions about the claim, despite being tagged multiple times; previous tweets indicated that George Dawson Middle School was part of the district.
That district (Carroll ISD) made national headlines in late 2021 over claims that an administrator had advised teachers to address “both sides” when instructing students about the Holocaust.
In that context, it seemed unlikely that the district would openly disclose any restrictions based on Dawson’s memoir. An August 23 2022 Dallas Morning News article reported that the district was not forthcoming in resolving the claim, but that an administrator confirmed that it was “tabled”:
….Brandie Egan, a district communications coordinator, said in a statement that the book had not been banned nor [placed] under reconsideration as part of the district’s challenge process.
Egan noted that a teacher wanted to use it as required reading in a seventh grade class. A district team — made up of teachers, principals and curriculum coordinators — reviewed it this summer [of 2022] along with other requests for required readings.
“It was determined that content in certain sections of this book was not appropriate for this age group,” Egan wrote. The process to evaluate which sections of the book are appropriate is still underway, she added. “To our knowledge, the book in its entirety was not used for instruction last year.”
District documents note that a review of the book, which was to be used in a journalism class, was “tabled” until the committee could talk to the school principal.
WFAA also covered the controversy, reporting:
The district declined an interview but said in a statement the book has not been banned or challenged by a parent. It said some content was deemed inappropriate after a seventh grade teacher requested to teach it.
Much of Dawson’s surviving family still lives in North Texas. His great-grandson, Chris Irvin, wasn’t aware the district was reviewing the book.
“That’s hurtful,” he said. “You take away the bad and the ugly and you only talk about the good, that doesn’t add up.”
Irvin, who studied African American history in college, was also confused because he says he and his family have visited the school at least five separate times for a full cover-to-cover reading of the biography.
“Black history is American history. You can’t have one without the other,” he said. “I can’t go to your history and tell you, ‘hey x that out of your life, that didn’t happen.'”
District administration said in an email it couldn’t share what content was deemed inappropriate until the review was complete, but said an evaluation is ongoing with options from removing sections to notifying parents.
On August 23 2022, several social media claims indicated that a book written by George Dawson (Life is So Good) was “banned” at George Dawson Middle School, part of Carroll Independent School District in Southlake, Texas. In late 2021, the same district made national news for controversial teaching directives with respect to the Holocaust. Although the district claimed the book was not banned, it confirmed that Life is So Good was “tabled” for further review, and that content in the book was “deemed inappropriate” by the district.