California School District Removes Books Over Explicit Content Concerns
The Escondido Union School District in California recently decided to remove two books from its elementary and middle school libraries after conducting an audit in early October to eliminate any potentially age-inappropriate materials from their collections.
The controversy began when a book containing sexually explicit content was discovered in one of the district’s campus libraries. As a result, the district temporarily shut down library services across its 23 elementary and middle school campuses. The closure lasted until October 6th to allow library technicians to perform a comprehensive audit of the book collections.
One of the books that raised concerns during this audit was “This Book Is Gay,” a non-fiction work authored by Juno Dawson. The book was described as a guide for individuals identifying within the LGBTQ spectrum. The decision to remove “This Book Is Gay” stemmed from the concerns raised by a district parent, Anne White, who voiced her objections to the school board on September 21st. White’s 13-year-old son had encountered the book in the Bear Valley Middle School library in mid-September, when his eighth-grade class visited the library.
White expressed her dismay about her son’s exposure to what she characterized as explicit and pornographic material. She demanded that not only this book but all other similar books be banned from school libraries. White contended that while some may argue for freedom of speech in relation to accessing these books in school libraries, she believed that such materials infringed on the rights of young children to enjoy their innocence. She also pointed out that the book contradicted her family’s Christian beliefs and her parental right to guide her child’s reading choices.
The school district acknowledged that “This Book Is Gay” was indeed inappropriate for school libraries, leading to its removal during the audit. The controversy highlights the ongoing debates about age-appropriate materials in school libraries and the balance between freedom of speech and the concerns of parents regarding their children’s exposure to certain content.
In addition to “This Book Is Gay,” the audit also resulted in the removal of “Looking for Alaska,” a coming-of-age novel by John Green, the author of “The Fault in Our Stars.” The district clarified that school library technicians conducted the audit in consultation with the Certificated Librarian of Record from the San Diego County Office of Education.
Furthermore, the district stated that they are currently working to enhance their library collection processing procedures to prevent similar situations from arising in the future. Superintendent Luis Rankins-Ibarra emphasized the district’s responsibility to ensure that the books they purchase for students are age-appropriate.
The controversy surrounding the removal of these books underscores the ongoing discussions about the role of schools and parents in determining what is suitable for young readers and how to strike the right balance between free expression and protection of children’s innocence in educational settings. It also showcases the challenges faced by school districts in navigating these sensitive issues.