Conservatives decry 'inappropriate book' in library
Special to the Village News
There’s controversy brewing with school board politics, once again, in Fallbrook. While things have calmed in the elementary district, some parents in the Fallbrook Union High School District are unhappy over the appointment of Jim Dooley, who placed second in the November election to the seat vacated by the winner.
Conservative Courtney Hilborn won the Area 1 contest but resigned a week after being sworn in. Paul Christensen, on a conservative slate with Hilborn, was elected to represent Area 3. Area 2, which covers the southern part of Camp Pendleton, has been vacant since January since no one ran in November and still no one has come forward to be appointed. Most of January and February the board operated with three of the usual five members.
The runner-up from November, Jim Dooley, was voted in to fill the vacancy in a split vote on Feb. 13 to represent Area 1. The “no” vote was from Christensen.
Conservative parents contend Dooley’s appointment – a provisional appointment – at a sparsely-attended afternoon special meeting on Feb. 13, should instead be brought to the voters of Area 1.
His appointment shifts the balance of power away from the will of voters in the November election, said Courtney Jones, one of the concerned parents.
“What the board could have done was elect exactly what the people elected, a mother with values that reflect the community, not far-left values,” Jones explained.
So, what is a provisional appointment? It means it is temporary or pending. And area conservatives are seizing the opportunity to force an election.
“We have 30 days from Feb. 13 to gather 100 names of voters in Area 1 on a petition to call for a vote,” Jones said. “The process has begun.”
Hilborn won the November election with 1,139 votes to Dooley’s 975.
If the parents gather the 100 signatures, the election could cost the district $100,000 or more, Superintendent Ilsa Garza-Gonzalez told the board.
The district is already seeing the consequences of having Dooley on the board. He sided with Board President Eddie Jones and Vice President Oscar Caralampio (who both voted to select Dooley on the board) in allowing a controversial book, “Beyond Magenta,” to remain available in the FHS library.
In November, a resident complained about the book being in the library and Garza-Gonzalez, per district policy, appointed a citizen committee to review the book. “The complaint generally alleged the book is a graphic novel about a young man who is sexually abused [at age 6], and it is pornographic and normalizes pedophile behavior,”
Garza-Gonzalez stated in her report to the board. “It discloses his experiences as being sexually active. The hyper-sexualization is not appropriate.”
On Jan. 31, the committee rendered a decision on the complaint finding the book to remain in circulation in the library. The decision was appealed to the board, with its decision being final.
“Beyond Magenta,” published in 2014, has been on the American Library Association’s list of books most often challenged, cited for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit. Susan Kuklin’s story chronicles six real-life trans teens and young adults.
At the Feb. 28 school board meeting, a robust group of speakers – both for and against the book – addressed the board for more than an hour. A recording of the meeting is available on the district web page, but parental guidance is recommended. The board voted three to one to allow the book. Trustee Christensen gave a strong “pitch” to reject the book, but was alone in the fight.
Caralampio said no one checked it out between 2016 and last year. “All human experiences are worthy of respect,” he added.
Eddie Jones contended, “The book is important and should stay on the shelf.”
However, it was the “take” from Dooley that irked Courtney Jones: “This unelected board member who we have only days to get a special election for says that this book about a six-year-olds enjoying giving oral sex is ‘a part of life’ and that we should keep it on the shelves.”
In response, Dooley said, “The author interviewed a number of people and wrote about their life experiences. I did not mention any particular experiences for any of the persons interviewed.”
Two days after the approval to keep the book, Eddie Jones was interviewed about the board’s decision.
“All the board members read or are reading the book,” Jones said. “I listened to the complaints from parents at the meeting who were upset. I understand their concerns. Board policy is a limit of 20 minutes on a topic, but they went on for about an hour and a half.”
He said the book told the story of six teens who present their stories and their experience in dealing with sexuality.
“There was one paragraph in the book that is controversial,” he said. “It’s something parents should make the decision of whether the book is appropriate for their children, but many parents don’t take that responsibility, being concerned for their kids, or they don’t have the family support system.”
Jones also noted there was a FHS trans student who died from suicide in 2015.
“This is a book that could help save the life of someone,” he said. “We listened to all sides and there is no easy choice, but I’m sure we made the right decision.”
Marci Strange, a mom and a member of Gays Against Groomers, disagreed. She spoke during the meeting in favor of removing the book.
She wrote to Village News, “It is 'Beyond Belief' that these three union-funded or supported trustees, Jones, Caralampio and Dooley voted in favor of a book that details a passage where a six-year-old transgender child is passed around like a party favor giving oral sex to a neighborhood full of adults and teens and ‘enjoys it.’ If these three union-funded supporters truly want to make LGBTQ students feel 'inclusive,' they must not have books on their shelves that endanger children by giving the trans community a reputation of desiring and glorifying sexual violence upon first graders.”
She continued, “Children and teens are very impressionable. Our LGBT community feels this book could lead to similar acts of sexual assault to young victims by both adults and teens, thus inappropriate for school libraries.”
For information about the petition, send an email to [email protected].