Parents are best equipped to raise and make decisions for their children — not the government — says Fresno County Supervisor Steve Brandau.
Thus he wants to create a 15-member panel to move controversial books away from the children’s section in county libraries.
Brandau introduced his plan Thursday morning at the downtown Fresno library. The news conference was attended by media, parents, and supporters of the LGBT community — all guarded by private security.
Flanked by several parents holding a “Parents Matter” banner, Brandau said no books will be banned. But, some do not belong in the children’s section, or to be checked out without parental guidance, he said.
“Both of these items are complex — controversial gender issues and also sexually explicit materials. Both of them probably have their place, but it’s not in the children’s section,” Brandau said.
The “Parents Matter Act” is scheduled for discussion at the Tuesday, Nov. 7 Fresno County Board of Supervisors meeting.
Brandau showed several examples of images in books that depicted cartoons of sexual activity and discussed gender identity. The books included “Pink, Blue and You,” and “It’s Perfectly Normal.”
“Conversations about sex education and conversations about gender, they need to be driven by the parents,” Brandau said.
The issue of age-appropriate material at the library arose in June when Clovis City Councilwoman Diane Pearce made it an issue on her Facebook page. The debate spilled over to the Clovis City Council, but libraries are a function of Fresno County government.
Brandau said he started crafting a plan in June after being contacted by parents with concerns about the appropriateness of some library books available to children.
Brandau’s ‘Parents Matter Act’
Brandau’s resolution would establish a 15-member panel — with each supervisor appointing three members. The panel would meet at least four times a year, and be subject to state open meeting laws.
The panel would review controversial children’s books containing sexual material, or about gender identity — flagged by the community or library staff — and decide if the books belong in the children’s section, using “community standards.”
“They will develop the standards,” Brandau said. “I’m going to let them make those determinations.”
Parental or guardian consent would be required to check out “age-inappropriate content.”
While the only criteria to serve on the board is to be 18 and a resident of Fresno County, Brandau said he would likely appoint parents.
Shelby O’Connor, a Madera mother of nearly four-year-old twins, was one of the parents standing behind Brandau.
“These pictures and books are borderline pornography for young kids, and they shouldn’t need to learn about it unless their parents are allowing them to learn about it,” O’Connor said.
LGBT Leader Skeptical
During the Clovis debates, Jennifer Cruz — Fresno EOC LGBTQ+ resource manager, and a Fresno County mother of two — opposed any restriction of library books.
Cruz attended Brandau’s news conference after speaking to him beforehand. She said she was skeptical about the proposal.
“We are arguing about it because the LGBTQ community is a political pawn in Steve Brandau’s game with Gary Bredefeld to out-right wing Bredefeld so that he can get re-elected in District 2,” Cruz said.
Brandau is seeking re-election in 2024. Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld and Fresno County Assessor-Recorder Paul Dictos are also running for the seat.
Cruz is concerned that the age-appropriate book debate is stirring hate against the queer community.
She said there is a line for age-appropriate books, but there are already library professionals making those decisions.
— David Taub (@TaubGVWire) November 2, 2023
Bredefeld criticized Brandau’s resolution, saying his opponent has “failed miserably to protect our children,” specifically mentioning the library and the foster care system.
“The only way to get him to do anything for our kids is through public shaming by the media and fellow local officials, and that only yields half-measures and double talk from Steve. Otherwise, he is typically silent and inactive,” Bredefeld said.
Dictos did not respond to a request for comment before publication of this story.