Talk in the 10: A differing viewpoint

Fremont County is large, diverse, and filled with opinions, or “talk in the 10.” “Talk in the 10” is an opportunity for you, our readers, to articulate and share your thoughts about what is happening in the community with the community. Letters may have been edited for clarity and length, but generally have been published exactly as received. The views expressed in the following are solely those of the author. Send your letters to our editors by emailing opi[email protected]

Dear Editor,

I appreciate the discussion opened by Taylor Pajunen about the school board meeting regarding library policies.  I would like to offer a differing viewpoint, one as a conservative parent of children in the district.

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To begin, I feel that it is the prerogative of the parents of children currently being educated in the district to shape the policies that directly affect their children.  Anyone else participating in the discussions, while well-intentioned, should be considered secondarily to the opinions of the parents. This is why I feel Scott Jensen is such a valuable asset to the school board.  He has multiple children in the district, in different schools.  Parents place an immense amount of trust in the wonderful teachers and administrators of the schools to help them raise their children.  It is imperative that political ideologies not interfere with what is best for the children, so that the school can be a common ground for all children, regardless of family political leanings.  Other people who come to contribute to the board meetings or policy decisions are often motivated by personal political views that they would push upon other people’s children. Although I have not been to a board meeting, I was careful to listen to the candidates and select people who would share my point of view at the meetings.  However, the letter from Ms. Pajunen made it clear to me that I (and other parents) need to have a voice at those meetings as well.        

But as far as the library policy is concerned, this has been on my mind for two years. My middle schoolers had access to NC-17-rated books from the Middle School library in Lander. The kids all whisper to each other about which books are scandalous in the library and share them; the latest one is called “After” by Anna Todd.  Billed as “the New 50 Shades of Grey” and co-opted into a movie series, this book deals with BDSM sexual encounters.  The teachers wouldn’t be able to show the movies in their classrooms, but the students can walk into the library and check the story out with no oversight at all.  As a parent, I’d like to know that there is a rating system in place for the books allowed in the library, just like they use for films.          

No parents that I know are lining up to burn books, nor do inflammatory words like “censorship” and “book banning” (or “gaslighting”) describe how we feel about the libraries.  I’d like to see that books appropriate for the age are in the correct school.  If we could move, for example, Sarah J. Maas’s books out of the middle school and into the public library, that would be ideal.  All books with explicit sexual encounters and excessive profanity (rated R as a film) should also be moved to the public library.  We can regulate the books our children check out from the public library, but the ones they check out from the school are invisible to parents.

In addition, there is an implicit sanction in anything the kids receive from the school; the schools need to make sure every resource they have is acceptable for all the children in their age bracket.  If the school is going to be a common ground for all children, these adult books need to be removed. Parents who want their children to read them can order them or take them to the public library to get them. Ms. Pajunen implied that the books being targeted related primarily to race relations, especially Black Lives Matter, but that is not my experience at all.  I am happy for my kids to read about people different from themselves.  I think the problem is that in our contemporary publishing world, POC, LBGTQ+, and other “own voices” stories are also heavily infused with graphic sexual scenes and too much profanity. If we can find books that keep the voices and leave out the smut, I would be all for them.

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I appreciate that Scott Jensen and the other board members are willing to contribute time, energy, and knowledge to our school district.  Our democracy depends upon people willing to step up and shoulder the burden of administering our public works.  It also depends upon the free speech that allows Ms. Pajunen and me to share our opinions and fears.  

Jan Francisco
Lander

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