Undermining Education: Censorship at Mountainview Elementary


A controversy erupted at Mountainview Elementary's Literati book fair. Three PTA members, believed to be associated with Moms for Liberty, removed two books: "The Insiders" by Mark Oshiro, a story about a gay middle schooler navigating a new school, and "Fighting Words" by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, which explores the resilience of two sisters in foster care coping with abuse. Both removals were done without consulting school administrators or the book fair organizers.


A Chapter of Moms for Liberty started in Los Angeles last year, with the leadership primarily based in Santa Clarita. Moms for Liberty has been designated as an “extremist group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Tim, the Insiders is a popular book with teens.


The Insiders tackles topics of diversity, acceptance, and inclusion, all words that Moms for Liberty find offensive. It’s about a gay boy who is trying to make friends at a school that doesn’t have a lot of experience with gay students. It could also be described as a book about a new kid in school who is different from most other kids and is having a hard time making friends and fitting in.


Fighting Words is written by New York Times bestseller Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. It’s a book about two sisters in foster care, growing up with social workers and foster parents, and having a mom in prison and no other family members to take care of them. They have to adjust to new schools and find part-time jobs to make money for clothes, food, school supplies, and life after foster care. They have trouble making friends with other kids whose parents aren’t too thrilled about their mom being in prison. But the most controversial part of the story is the sisters are victims of sexual abuse and sexual assault.


In a scene in Fighting Words, one of the sisters is in therapy talking about her sexual assault. The therapist tells her she is probably not the only one in her class to experience sexual abuse. The sister tells her therapist no one ever talks about it at school.


The therapist tells her, “Maybe more people should. Maybe if more people felt they could talk about it, it wouldn’t happen as often.”


The two sisters try to resolve the history of sexual abuse in their lives in different ways. It is a story of support and love between the two sisters. But it is also about how the victims of sexual abuse are treated by peers, caretakers, and authority figures who are supposed to help them.


Fighting Words has received widespread critical acclaim. I was a nominee for the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Middle Grade and Children’s book in 2020 and declared Best Book of the Year for 2020 by the Boston Globe.

A few parents who are leaders in the Mountainview Elementary PTA allegedly decided otherwise. These parents hid these two books and then allegedly lied to multiple parents about the availability of the books.


Rachel Villanueva, the president of the Santa Clarita Valley PTA Council, said in an emailed response to a request for comment about the book fair, “A statement is coming and it is not the policy of the PTA to censor book fairs.”


The SCV PTA says once it was made aware of what was happening at the Mountainview Elementary book fair, “actions were taken to fix the situation.”


Those actions were not specifically addressed in the email.


Across the US, from Florida to California, Moms for Liberty chapters are pushing to remove books about diversity and inclusion from schools. They claim they're "protecting children," but critics say they're censoring important voices. These groups use various tactics, like getting on school boards or flooding officials with requests to ban specific titles, to restrict access to these books. Moms for Liberty, founded in 2021, has been working to ban books. They created a 111-page guide full of misleading information that targets books with LGBTQ characters and stories about people of color.


“The narrative is always ‘book banning’ and ‘book censorship,” Karen Frost, the president of Los Angeles Moms for Liberty told Fox News in January 2024. “Moms for Liberty does not believe in book censorship or book banning in any way, but there’s a huge difference between curating libraries with age-appropriate material and banning books. We believe that all books have a right to exist, but we also need to acknowledge that there is age-appropriate material, and we need to, um, recognize, you know, that K through 12 libraries need to have stuff that is age-appropriate.”


Contrary to Karen Frost’s comments to Fox News, librarians actually take meticulous care in curating their children's sections. They consider age groups and developmental stages. For toddlers, there are sturdy board books with vibrant pictures. Pre-readers get introduced to picture books with simple stories and beautiful illustrations.  As children progress, chapter books with relatable characters and themes are added to spark their imagination and reading skills. Librarians consider not just content but also reading level, ensuring there's something for every child on their reading journey.


Just this past weekend, on April 27-28, 2024, Moms for Liberty had a table at the KHTS “Home and Garden Show” in Central Park in Santa Clarita. There they advocated book bans and discriminatory policies to “out” LGBTQ children in school.

Moms for Liberty had a table set up at the KHTS Home and Garden Show in April 2024, where they pushed book bans and discriminatory policies against LGBTQ+ children in public schools.

Santa Clarita Weekly

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