FRESNO COUNTY – A county supervisor has introduced a plan to address community concerns over “sexually explicit” material in children’s library sections.
On Nov. 2, Fresno County Board of Supervisor Steve Brandau, speaking in front of the main branch of the Fresno County Public Library (FCPL) and with a group of parents and children behind him carrying a “Parents Matter” banner, announced that at the next Board of Supervisors (Board) meeting Nov. 7, he will present his “Parents Matter Act for Fresno County Libraries.”
The twofold purpose of this act is to ensure that what Brandau calls sexually explicit material in the children’s section of FCPL branches is not randomly accessible by children, and to create a 15-member commission to vet library books for said sexually explicit material.
“I am coming today in a very prayerful mood. This is not about trying to isolate people. Or divide people. Or hate on people,” Brandau said in his opening remarks, eliciting the name of “Liar” from someone in the audience.
Brandau said he decided to draft the act because of a phone call last June he had with a parent in Clovis.
“I got a call from a father whose wife and three daughters attended the Clovis library earlier that day,” he said. “(They said) ‘Steve, how did this happen? How did these books get here? Who makes these decisions? I don’t want my daughters to go into the library if they have to face this stuff.’”
PARENTS MATTER ACT
Brandau said that after speaking to the parents and after consulting with other county supervisors in different states, including South Carolina, Louisiana and Kentucky, and after doing extensive research, he decided to create the Parents Matter Act.
The act is twofold. Part one prevents children from having random access to books containing sexually explicit material.
“I am leaving that (task) up to the librarians and the CAO on how that gets done,” Brandau said. “They can create a different section or they can take these books and move them to a place where they are inaccessible to children.”
Part two is the creation of a committee of 15 Fresno County citizens – with the five board supervisors nominating three committee members.
“It (committee) will begin the process of reviewing books. Books with question marks like these will come to them from the library, from a concerned citizen, or from one of the members of the committee,” said Brandau. “They can review the books and make a determination where should that book be displayed.”
Brandau emphasized that the committee will not have the authority to remove books or ban books from the library.
Holding up one of the books he used as examples, Brandau said, “The book is not going away. This book is in the library. It’s going to stay in the library.”
Recapping, Brandau said, “This is the act. Two pieces. Taking the books that have sexually explicit or sexually graphic material, or the books that contain complex and controversial gender questions, and making them inaccessible to children on their own without their parent(s).”
Brandau used illustrations from different picture books to illustrate his point.
Citing a section from “Pink, Blue, and You!: Questions about Gender,” Brandau said the book wanted to “drive a wedge between parents and children because it questions what parents are telling children.” He referred to a chapter in the book where a young boy asks, “What does it mean to be a boy or a girl? Or to be one or the other? Can’t we be both? Can’t we be neither?”
“This book is very political,” Brandau said. “A woke book that begins to talk about political stuff.”
Brandau called out “It’s Perfectly Normal” for its graphic depictions of sexual intercourse and masturbation. The book has been in circulation for over 25 years and has gone through multiple editions.
“You can say this is a sex education book; I wouldn’t disagree,” he said. “In Fresno County, we want parents, like the people standing behind me, to be making the decision about what is accessible to their kids. Conversations about sex education and gender need to be driven by the parents.”
Brandau produced poster boards with blown-up images from the books. One board displayed two adult males and a young boy, all naked, showering in a locker room while a young girl put on her shoes in the background. Brandau said he could not remember the title of the book. He was skeptical of the book’s educational value.
“I was told this book is about how bodies change,” Brandau said. “There is no scenario to illustrate how bodies change in which we have to look at a picture of a child showering with two adult men.”
LIBRARIANS NOT TO BLAME
Brandau made it clear to the audience he was not blaming librarians or library staff for the situation.
“I am not here to besmirch the library,” he said. “I think Fresno County has a lot of great librarians and a lot of great employees that work in the library. I think by and large they are doing a fantastic job serving the community. My job is different from their job. I have to respond to concerns from citizens. And that’s what I am doing today.”
During the Q&A following the news conference, Brandau said that the conference marked the jumping off point for the act. He noted that it is entirely possible the board will not approve his resolution at the Nov. 7 meeting.
Brandau brushed off comments that the act is part of re-election campaign. “I don’t care about that; that’s not why I’m here,” he said.
When asked about what criteria may be used to determine if a book should be deemed sexually explicit and, therefore, require parental permission for it to be accessed or checked out, Brandau answered, “The bottom line question is: who is the best, individual or entity, to raise children in Fresno County? I’m saying it’s the parents, not government.”