The Largest Public School District In Texas Is Converting School Libraries Into 'Discipline Centers'

The superintendent defended his decision, claiming that it will promote improved behavior.

students in the background with man in front wavebreakmedia / / Shutterstock 

When students in a Houston school district return to school in just a few short weeks, those who are book lovers will be disappointed to learn that the buildings’ libraries have been closed and converted into spaces that serve a much different purpose. 

Additionally, students will now have to adhere to an honor system if they want to access reading materials they were once able to check out from the libraries. 


The Houston Independent School District will shut down at least 28 libraries under a new education system and turn them into discipline centers. 

In a district attempting to “improve student reading levels, which lag behind state and national averages,” many were surprised when Superintendent Mike Miles made the decision to shut down the libraries and transform them into “team centers,” under his new reform program, New Education System (NES). 

The team centers will serve as a space where “where kids with behavioral issues will be sent,” per the Houston Chronicle. Students sent to the team centers will be able to watch lessons virtually and work alone or in groups with various lessons. 


The district will also be evaluating 57 additional schools that also adopted the New Education System. They will be accessed on a case-by-case basis. 

The decision is a remarkable change from the last school year when 88% of campuses had libraries along with a certified librarian or teacher working in the library, an increase from the 48% the year prior. 

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While there will still be books available for students to check out on the shelves, they will have to honor a system should they want to take a book home “or access them during before and after school hours.”

The district released a statement regarding the controversial decision. “We understand the significance of certain programs associated with libraries,” they stated. “And [we] will strive to maintain those valuable offerings.” 

“Right now, we are going to try to raise achievement, we’re going to try to have high-quality instruction, so the focus is on those teachers who can do that,” Mike Miles added. “If you have to prioritize resources, then you want to get a teacher who can deliver the science of reading versus a librarian.” 

Many community members are against the decision made by the district, noting that libraries are essential for both students and school staff. 

However, many people find that eliminating libraries will only have negative consequences for students. Some have noted that now students may associate the libraries they once loved to explore different book genres with spaces of punishment. 


“There’s going to be more traffic and controlling children, and God only knows what that is going to lead to,” TikTok user @simplysimone said in a video. “It’s not safe for anyone.” 



Deborah Hall, who spent 40 years working in the Houston Independent School District, was “stunned” when she heard about the news. “I don't understand why this current administration doesn't see the value of libraries and what they do for literacy and reading," she told ABC13.

"It's sending an entirely wrong message. Five years from now, that student who was sent to the Zoom Room [former name for Team Center] in the library, may associate reading and libraries with a punishment.” 


Hall now advocates for libraries and librarians as the co-founder of the Students Need Libraries organization. 

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Additionally, people fear that using libraries as spaces for students to be sent off when they misbehave promotes inequity. 

"Closing libraries will increase inequity. Looking at one school with a library and a school without a library, it's not the same,” Hall added. "These students with the library have a lot more advantage in their educational journey.” 

Librarians and other school staff may also find themselves without jobs with the elimination of libraries. Brooke King, the Chair of the Texas Association of School Librarians and a middle school librarian herself, is disappointed by the recent decision made by the Houston Independent School District. 


“It’s disappointing to say the least that this is the plan that’s going forward, especially since HISD had been making lots of progress over the last few years,” she told Essence. “It’s sad to see that being undone.” 

Library advocates argue that libraries “help build on the reading skills learned in the classroom... by offering reading programs and competitions, helping kids choose books that match their interests and reading levels, and cultivating a love for reading.”

There are countless benefits libraries offer students, including sparking an interest in reading, improving vocabulary and research skills, and enhancing imagination and creativity. Stripping schools of their libraries will only reverse the positive impacts they have had on curious students, and perpetuate unfavorable feelings toward books and libraries.


They should be preserved as spaces that they were intended for, a space where students could explore the endless possibilities of their imaginations by immersing themselves in the books on the shelves, rather than one they are sent to as a punishment. 

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Megan Quinn is a writer at YourTango who covers entertainment and news, self, love, and relationships.