The civil rights enforcement division of the U.S. Department of Education has opened an investigation into a North Texas school district whose superintendent was secretly recorded telling librarians to take out LGBTQ-themed books from the library.

The federal investigation into the Granbury Independent School District, which resulted from a complaint by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and reporting by NBC News, ProPublica, and The Texas Tribune, is being hailed as the first of its kind that is specifically connected to the national movement to outlaw books on sexuality and gender in school libraries. This is according to education and legal experts.

On December 6, the Office for Civil Rights of the Education Department notified Granbury’s school administration that an investigation had been launched as a result of a complaint made in July by the American Civil Liberties Union, which charged the district with breaking a federal law that forbids discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation. The ACLU complaint was largely based on an investigation conducted in March by NBC News, ProPublica, and the Tribune, which revealed that Granbury’s superintendent, Jeremy Glenn, gave librarians orders to take out books about people of a particular sexual orientation and transgender individuals.

Glenn clarified his focus on eliminating books targeted toward queer students later in the meeting: “It’s the transgender, LGBTQ and the sex — sexuality — in books,” he said, according to the recording.

The ACLU claimed in its complaint that the remarks and the district’s subsequent decision to take out dozens of library books pending an investigation created a “pervasively hostile” environment for LGBTQ students. The Education Department’s decision to launch the investigation into Granbury ISD, according to ACLU attorney Chloe Kempf, shows that the department is concerned about what she called a “wave” of anti-LGBTQ policies and book removals across the country.

According to a spokesperson for the Education Department, the investigation was conducted in accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which forbids discrimination in schools on the basis of sex, gender, and sexual orientation.

If the investigation reveals that there have been rights violations in Granbury schools, the agency may demand that the district change its policies and submit to federal oversight.

Voters in Granbury chose two members of the school board last year despite their opposition to LGBTQ-affirming textbooks and curricula in the classroom. According to text messages examined by NBC News, ProPublica, and The Tribune, Glenn then started requesting information from district administrators about a number of books that an unidentified member of the school board had discovered in the district’s online catalog. The board member sent Glenn messages that featured screenshots of eight books, all of which dealt with LGBTQ issues and highlighted the terms “gay,” “trans,” and “gender” in some of the book descriptions.

According to the recording of his remarks, Glenn told librarians in a meeting in January that the new school board was “very, very conservative” and that any staff member with different political views “better hide it.” The district then started one of the biggest mass book removal campaigns in the state, pulling 130 books, the majority of which had LGBTQ themes or characters in them.

Parents and voters in Granbury have been putting pressure on the district to ban books with sex or LGBTQ themes in recent months. Karen Lowery, one of the women who sought criminal charges against Granbury librarians, was elected to the school board last month, and she has vowed to remove any books she deems inappropriate for children. According to an analysis of books posted on, a website where they have gathered parent reviews, 3 out of 5 of the nearly 80 books that conservative activists want banned feature LGBTQ characters or themes.

One week after the Office for Civil Rights informed the district it had opened an investigation, Lowery demanded that all “obscene” books be removed from shelves at her first meeting as a school board trustee on December 12. Glenn replied by requesting a list of titles from her so the board could discuss it at a later meeting.

Education and legal experts said the Education Department’s decision to open an investigation in Granbury is significant because it sets up a test of a somewhat novel legal argument by the ACLU: the idea that book removals themselves can create a hostile environment for certain classes of students.