Newport Beach Library Board Votes to Move Controversial Book to Teens’ Section

Newport Beach Library Board Votes to Move Controversial Book to Teens’ Section

Children's books sitting in the Mary Wilson Branch of Orange County Library in Seal Beach, Calif., on Sept. 9, 2023. (Sophie Li/The Epoch Times)

Micaela Ricaforte

Micaela Ricaforte

4/17/2024

Updated: 4/22/2024

Newport Beach’s library board voted to move a controversial book from the children’s section to the teens’ section of all city libraries at an April 15 meeting.
Concerned about several books with sexual content in the kids’ section, several residents and parents began requesting the board move the books last summer.
Haley Jenkins, a parent, said she noticed what she called age-inappropriate books last year after her young daughter found a book in the children’s section that discussed transgenderism.
“About a year ago [my daughter] found one of these books in the children’s section. She grabbed it off the shelf,” she told The Epoch Times. “It has rainbows and kittens on the front, and she grabbed it and we start looking at it, and it starts talking about how this person is neither a boy nor a girl, and how to change genders.”
After that, Ms. Jenkins began to talk to other Newport Beach parents, who said they also noticed more books they thought were inappropriate in the kids’ section.
She said one person mentioned her grandson finding a book at the library called “It’s Perfectly Normal,” which describes itself as a “book on sex, sexuality, bodies, and puberty.”
The book, which was “outward facing on a low shelf,” contains several graphic sexual illustrations, including depictions of masturbation and nude bodies, that she and other parents considered inappropriate for young children.
Ms. Jenkins said she and several other residents submitted requests for several books to be moved out of the children’s section; however, after several months, the library’s director, Melissa Hartson, denied their requests in November.
When parents asked to appeal, the library board created a process for them. So far, eight books have been appealed, according to Ms. Jenkins.
At the April 15 board meeting, the first two books were reviewed by the board: “Melissa,” which was previously published as “George,” by Alex Gino, and “Prince & Knight” by Daniel Haack.
“Melissa” is about a fourth-grader named George who wishes to transition to a female and go by the name Melissa, while “Prince & Knight” is about a prince who falls in love with a knight after fighting alongside him in a battle.
The library board ultimately voted 3–2 to move “Melissa” to the teens’ section, while it voted unanimously to keep “Prince & Knight” in the kids’ section.
During the meeting’s public comment, Ms. Jenkins, who appealed “Melissa,” argued that her objection was not about LGBT content, but about kids accessing “vulgar” content.
“How deep are you willing to go for little children? In the past, has this library given out reading materials to children with medical advice like [how to obtain] hormones and surgeries?” she said. “Viewpoint discrimination cannot be an argument when there are over 100 children and teen books in the LGBTQ category in the catalog and many of those are not as vulgar as this.”
Several other residents spoke asking the board to uphold the library director’s decision to keep the books on the kids’ shelves.
One such parent, who said they identify as a transgender man, disagreed.
“The fact is that when challenges of this nature come out towards these books, it’s not about the books themselves. It’s about the people they represent,” the parent told the board during public comment. “I suspect [to the applicants] ... I would be deemed inappropriate to be around [their children] by virtue of my existence.”
Newport Beach’s library controversies come as some state lawmakers are looking to stop libraries from banning books based on “the topic, views, ideas, or opinions contained in the materials,” and “from banning materials that may include sexual content, unless that content qualifies as obscene under United States Supreme Court precedent,” according to an April 11 press release from Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, who introduced the bill.
Assembly Bill 1825, also known as the California Freedom to Read Act, was introduced by Mr. Muratsuchi in January and passed the Assembly’s Education Committee on April 10.
It will go before the Assembly Judiciary Committee for a hearing in the coming weeks.
Ms. Jenkins told The Epoch Times that she thought the bill removed control from local governing bodies.
“[This bill takes] the local control away from the school board or the library board and it’s all coming down from some bureaucrats in Sacramento,” she said. “So what is the point of having a school board or library board or any of these if you’re just going to impose these rules from the top down?”
She added that her requests were not bans, but simply requests to move some books to a different section of the library.
“It’s not a ban when you can still access it. We’re asking them to move it into a more appropriate section,” she said.
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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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