ESCONDIDO, Calif. (KGTV) — The Escondido Union School District has temporarily shut down all its campus libraries after the discovery of a book containing allegedly sexually-explicit content. The district says that during the closure, it will be conducting an audit of campus libraries.
Through a spokesperson, superintendent Dr. Luis Ibarra declined an interview request from ABC 10News, but did send a written statement:
“The safety and learning of our students are our top priority. The District has temporarily suspended library services to allow our library media technicians to conduct a thorough audit of our library collection. Unfortunately, it came to my attention that a book containing sexually explicit material was in one of our school libraries. As an elementary district that serves students from PK to 8th grade, we are committed to not introducing inappropriate material to our students. The careful review of book collections is a routine practice that our library media techs do often in order to make room for newer collections. As soon as this audit is completed at all school sites, but no later than 10/6, library services will resume. We thank the EUSD community for your patience and understanding.”
ABC 10News made repeated requests for the name of the book in question. However, a district spokesperson refused to reveal the information, saying that it would only be released after the conclusion of the audit.
The topic induced heated debate on social media sites, with some commenters praising the district for protecting children, while others slammed the district for closing off access to libraries to all children over concerns for one book.
The subject of book challenges and book bans has been an issue for schools and libraries across the country in recent years. The American Library Association reported a record-high number of challenges in 2021-2022.
This week, the San Diego Public Library joined "Books Unbanned", a program started in Brooklyn and will allow readers from outside of San Diego to access digital and audio copies of some of the most commonly banned books in the country.
“Libraries are not taking a political stance. What libraries are doing is what libraries have always done, is to make information available. This is a cornerstone of our democracy," said Patrick Stewart, CEO of Library Foundation SD, a non-profit organization that raises money and supports San Diego public libraries. The foundation will provide the funding to make digital and audio copies of 250-300 books available to people across the country.
Stewart says the effort to ban books are coming from a small, but well-organized effort to turn schools and libraries into a battlefield for political culture wars. “The books that are being challenged...are largely books that create an opportunity for representation for black and brown communities and lgbtqi+ communities...Frankly, it’s frightening to me that we’re going to allow our democracy to be challenged and upended in this way.”