Elk Grove Unified Trustee Carmine Forcina scorches, clashes with colleagues over proposed school library policy

Elk Grove Unified School District Trusteee and board chair Nancy Chaires-Espinoza defended school librarians but was called a liar by a fellow board member during the Tuesday, October 17 meeting. | 

During a lengthy continuous hearing and deliberation, the Elk Grove Unified School District heard recommendations on the district's school library policies during their Tuesday, October 17 meeting. Nationally and in Elk Grove, school libraries have become a focal point in ongoing battles initiated by parents seeking to remove material they deem objectionable or age-inappropriate.

The recommendations were made by a three-board member subcommittee that included trustees Carmine Forcina, Nancy Chaires-Espinoza, and Michael Vargas. The group had spent 12 hours in meetings. 


After hearing a presentation by Deputy Superintendent Mark Cerutti, Forcina read a statement he sent to Superintendent Christopher Hoffman in dissent of the recommendations. Forcina toched the policy recommnedation approved by two fellow trustees and said it maintains the status quo and interferes with parents and their children.

Immediately after Forcina read his dissent, as board president, Chaires-Espinoza implied subcommittees do not typically include a minority report. See Forcina's commentary and Chaires-Espinoza's remarks in the video below.


Trustee Michael Vargas said the subcommittee sought to embed transparency and accountability in their recommendations. He also pushed back on Forcina's report and some of his assertions.

"Contrary to what Mr. Forcina said, it is not one person making all the decisions [on school library materials]," he said. "There are many layers of review in this policy."

During her comments, Chaires-Espinoza built upon Vargas's remarks and said claims about the policy recommendations made during public comments are inaccurate. 

Chaires-Espinoza said, "I am extremely disappointed after all the work we have put in to have just a completely inaccurate representation of some of the work," she said. "There is not a single partisan source in the document."

As she continued, she said there are options for parents to flag books they don't want their children to check out of school libraries. Additionally, Chaires-Espinoza said parents have a mechanism to have their children take alternate assignments in the curriculum, but there are things that children can not opt out of according to state law.

"What is at issue is whether we create policies and procedures that allow some [her emphasis] parents to control what information everyone else's children has access to," she stated. "Case law says that we as individual parents do not have the right to control the curriculum and instructional material that everybody else's children have access to."

Chaires-Espinoza also addressed accusations that school librarians and the district are trying to "groom" children for sexual exploitation. 

"The inplimication that our librarians, our emplyoees, are attempting to, quote, groom students for sexual abuse while they are simply doing their jobs as we have aske them to do, is beyond offensive and irresponsible," she said. 

During their board deliberations, Forcina frequently expressed dissatisfaction with the recommendations. As an example, he objected to the reliance on books recommendations by sources like the American Library Association, which he stated was biased. 

"Why are we relying on a sole source when there are organizations, like Compass Book Ratings, Novel Book Ratings that are available and give ratings based on profanity, based on violence, based on sexual content," he questioned Chaires-Espinoza. "Why not have alternate associations that are not biased."

Chaires-Espinoza said the other booking rating guides excluded books required by state law for inclusion. Forcina forcefully responded, saying she was lying during subcommittee discussions.

"You said, 'I'm not familiar with those rating systems, therefore, they must be anti-LGBQT," Forcina said as Chaires-Espinoza shook her head. "Yes, you did, yes you did. You're lying!"

Chaires-Espinoza acknowledged she was unfamiliar with those rating systems, but since they did not comply with the California FAIR Act, they would be exempt from consideration. 

Throughout the three-plus hours of deliberations, Forcina clashed with his subcommittee members and other trustees. But he also had some support. 

Forcina was supported by Trustee Tony Perez, who also endorsed comments by Trustee Sean Yang that they be given more time to review the recommendations. 

"The language is very important in these documents," Perez said. "Like I said before, I am here for the health and safety of our students, and this is a health and safety issue."

Perez said the books parents had expressed concern about should have in-class professional instruction.  "Not just thrown out there in the school or school library," he said.

After hearing comments and proposed tweeks to the policy from the other trustees, the trustees adjourned just before midnight.

The policy will be on the November 7 meeting agenda consent calendar for approval. The policy can be viewed here


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Juan Trippe said...

For Nancy Chaires to say the document is free of partisanship is as laughable as Ron Desantis claiming his education agenda and "don't say gay" law is free of partisan politics. Just be honest and quit the bull.

D.J. Blutarsky said...

What's up with the COVID mask? Even Joe and Gavin have moved on!

Renegade said...

Educated and informed adults can agree to disagree over such volatile subjects. I can appreciate both points of view. However, calling a co-board member a liar is very strong rhetoric.
I have watched this debate from afar since the beginning. There should be a state funded governing body that determines what is suitable for inclusion in our schools, be it elementary, middle or high school. Certainly reviews should have different standards for each level of education. That said, parents today must know that their kids have easy access to all kinds of inappropriate and pornographic materials at their disposal thanks to cellphones and/or the internet. To think monitoring school libraries will shield them from exposure to these materials is simply ridiculous. Our kids don't have to read these materials even though they have access to them. Kids will read what interests them.
To start banning books sets a very dangerous precedent. I'm strongly against this. For a school board member or even a parent to believe that our librarians are sexually "grooming" our kids is crazy. That just makes no sense.
Let our schools and librarians do their jobs. We as parents need to raise our kids to appreciate what is wrong and right and appropriate an inappropriate for them. If we do that job well, there won't be a problem.

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