California School District Approves New Screening Process for Sexually Explicit Books

California School District Approves New Screening Process for Sexually Explicit Books

Library books in Westminster, Calif., on Sept. 22, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Micaela Ricaforte

Micaela Ricaforte

12/7/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

The Chino Valley School Board in San Bernardino County, California recently approved a revision to its classroom materials policy that allows parents, teachers, students, and community members to submit complaints to the board for classroom or library books they are concerned contain inappropriate sexual content.
The update, passed with a 3–2 vote by the board’s conservative majority Nov. 16, will require the principal of the school to remove the book and inform the superintendent within three days of receiving a complaint.
The superintendent must then notify the board, which would then hold a public hearing within 45 days to determine whether the book should be permanently removed from the district’s classrooms and libraries.
The policy will not apply to books that are a part of the district’s approved curriculum, only supplemental classroom materials.
Trustee James Na, who supported the revision, called it a “common sense” policy.
“This should be done throughout California,” he said. “This is our children. ... We have a responsibility to provide a good, positive learning environment.”
Under previous policy, parents were encouraged to first bring their concerns to the teacher and school principal, which then could only be appealed to the board after a lengthy process of various reviews.
Trustee Jonathan Monroe said he thought the district’s current revision policy was sufficient, and that the new process would be “irresponsible.”
“I don’t know what we’re trying to fix with this policy. We have a policy in place now that allows for the books to be reviewed,” he said. “I have seen no information saying this policy is not working, or that it has even been tried by anybody that’s complaining about these books. ... We as a board have not given clear directions to the cabinet to enforce the policy that is currently in place. And I think moving forward with a new policy is irresponsible. I think it doesn’t show that we trust our cabinet with doing the job that we’ve ... hired them to do.”
Trustee Donald Bridge agreed, saying he opposed the new policy because of the district’s current one in place.
Dozens of community members gathered at the meeting to give input on the policy during public comment.
Those who support the policy emphasize they want to protect children from pornographic content.
“Let me start by saying that this policy is not designed to ban all the textbooks like our friends on the other side of the aisle suggested,” one commenter said. “This policy is narrowly tailored to ... pornography materials from our schools, from our children.”
Another commenter said, “Many people in opposition to this policy will claim that there’s no need for this policy since there’s no pornographic material in the schools. But what’s weird about that is: why are they so opposed to it if it’s not going to change anything?”
However, those who opposed the policy say it’s being used to get books with LGBT content removed from schools.
One teacher during public comment called the revision “book banning,” saying it “[robs] children of perspectives reflecting our humanity and lived experiences, erasing history and ignoring those deemed ‘other.’”
“What’s more alarming to me as an educator is this policy’s interference with classroom curriculum and teacher’s autonomy to choose reading materials,” the teacher continued. “Parents trust educators to use their expertise when selecting books for their [classroom libraries].”
The teacher also pointed out that the policy does not define “sexually obscene materials” and does not specify who sets such standards.
“Sexuality and gender are not pornography,” she said. “There is nothing obscene about the LGBT community or their relationships, and banning books about sexuality shames our LGBT students.”
The issue comes amid a legal battle between the state of California and the district over its controversial policy requiring schools to notify parents if their children identify as transgender.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta sued the district in August over the policy, which the district enacted in July.
In a tentative Oct. 19 ruling, San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Michael Sachs granted the attorney general’s request for a preliminary injunction, saying the district can’t enforce the policy until its validity has been decided at trial.
In a previous September hearing, another judge temporarily blocked the enforcement of the policy at the request of Mr. Bonta.
A stack of books containing explicit language and images that have been found in some Texas public school libraries. (Courtesy of Diana Richards)

A stack of books containing explicit language and images that have been found in some Texas public school libraries. (Courtesy of Diana Richards)

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Micaela Ricaforte

Micaela Ricaforte

Author

Micaela Ricaforte covers education in Southern California for The Epoch Times. In addition to writing, she is passionate about music, books, and coffee.

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