Calls to support banning and censoring books in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District were sent out to local residents for a second time in the past month, prompting community members to plan to stand against book bans at the Oct. 25 school board meeting.
We the People of The Santa Maria Valley—a conservative group affiliated with Common Sense Santa Ynez Valley—sent an email requesting people to speak at the board meeting “to oppose the constant indoctrination of children within the Californian public school system and district libraries.”
“If we want to address this concern before more of our children’s minds are violated, let’s find some parents who are willing to speak,” the email stated. “Parents have more power and influence than district employees. It’s very important they speak up! Having a community member who isn’t a parent and doesn’t work for the district would also be valuable.”
The Oct. 17 email stated the group was in the process of accumulating book titles it believes should be banned that are in the district’s library system, and members were preparing for a presentation to give to the school board during the Oct. 25 meeting, which happened after the Sun went to press.
“In addition, we have a letter drafted by an attorney to district leaderships, which is amazing and which we will be referring to!!” the email stated. “The law is on our side to protect the children from sexually explicit reading material even though it seems it isn’t, based on Newsom’s latest announcement and the Sept. 27 board meeting presenters. Our message is the most aligned to the law, and we will share specifically how.”
The Sun inquired about the specifics We The People of the Santa Maria Valley intended to share during the board meeting, and the group responded by saying they needed more time to prepare and planned to postpone their presentation until January.
Prior to the Sept. 27 school district board meeting, residents received an announcement from the group—mainly made up of Santa Ynez residents—stating that its members planned to attend that meeting to discuss parents’ rights to limit their children’s access to certain books available in schools, Maggie White, the district’s public information officer, told the Sun via email.
That email caused more than a dozen Santa Maria residents to speak in favor of “freedom of speech and in support of books that include accurate history, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community,” White said.
“The majority of the public comments supported students’ ability and right to choose age-appropriate books on a variety of subjects they are interested in,” White said.
As of Oct. 24, the Santa Maria-Bonita School District hadn’t received any requests for books in the library collection to be reconsidered, and the school board is not considering any action regarding book collections or textbooks at this time.
Lawanda Lyons-Pruitt, president of the Santa Maria-Lompoc NAACP, told the Sun that she planned to attend the Oct. 25 board meeting to speak out against book banning and book censorship in a district that sits in Santa Maria—a city with more than 77 percent persons of color, she said.
“We oppose all forms of book banning. We don’t even know what books they want to ban, but that’s besides the point. Who’s in a better position to select what books our kids read besides the district, the teachers, the librarians, and so forth?” Lyons-Pruitt asked. “They always have a right to opt out and say, ‘I don’t want to do that for my kid.’ That’s fine, but you should not impose it on everyone.”
She added that she believes that this group plans to go to other districts across the Santa Maria Valley, and that the local NAACP chapter plans to go wherever they plan to speak.
“We’re going to fight against policies, procedures, and practices that harm communities of color and all students,” Lyons-Pruitt said. “Our kids deserve better than that.”