After nearly three hours of debate, the Clovis City Council will not send an official letter to Fresno County critical of LGBT and sex ed books at the public library.
The council on Tuesday discussed sending a letter on behalf of Diane Pearce, Vong Mouanoutoua, and Drew Bessinger. The three had expressed concern about what they believe is age-inappropriate LGBT-themed books at the library.
On a 5-0 vote, the council decided to do nothing. Obviously, that doesn’t preclude councilmembers from writing letters on their own.
The proposed letter, written by City Manager John Holt, would have alerted county officials to books featuring “sex acts.”
Books Should Be in Adult Section, Councilmembers Say
One particular book that drew the concern of the three councilmembers was “It’s Perfectly Normal.”
It is a sex education book aimed at children written by Robie H. Harris and illustrated by Michael Emberley. The front of the book is labeled for 10 and up. Several copies remain in libraries throughout the Fresno County system.
Pictures of the book, shared by Pearce with GV Wire, show illustrations of couples engaged in sexual activity, and children exploring their bodies.
“I don’t choose what to write to be controversial, I choose to write what children are thinking about or have questions or worries and want to know about. They have the right to have accurate and honest information,” Harris said in the story. “If it is in the best interest of children, then it goes in the book no matter what anyone says to me.”
Bessinger said the books should not be banned; instead, they should be in the adult section.
“I don’t know that a fourth-grader would be mature enough without a parent with them to have that discussion,” Bessinger said.
Pearce, who brought the issue to light with a Facebook post last June, agreed with Bessinger.
“It’s just about what we believe and what we can do to make sure that the things that are in front of our kids are appropriate,” Pearce said.
Mayor Lynne Ashbeck called Clovis a “welcoming community,” disagreeing with the need for an official letter.
“I think we have caused incredible harm on all sides of the issue and it really was for no outcome,” Ashbeck said.
Most Public Comment Opposed Letter
Public comment was passionate from both supporters and opponents of free speech, LGBT rights, and parental rights. An unofficial count had a majority of speakers opposing the letter.
“We need to preserve the innocence of children,” one Clovis resident said, advocating for the books to be placed in the adult section.
Others accused Pearce of using “scare tactics” and “hateful” remarks about the LGBT community.
“You are demonizing and trying to hide the visibility of so many different types of people to keep an increasingly outdated status quo on what normal looks like,” one commenter said.
Several members of the public said parents should have the right to decide what their children read with some supporting the letter and others opposing.
After public comment, Bessinger said that sending an official letter may not be the course of action. However, he added that he would send an individual letter. Pearce said she didn’t have a problem with individual letters.