Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Bernalillo Public Schools’ Avoids Book Ban Controversy


With students set to return August 16 to the classrooms of the ten schools of the Bernalillo Public Schools district — and with, according to a June 1 report by KUNM’s Taylor Vasquez, “the American Library Association reporting a record number of demands to censor books in 2022,” including from a few vocal anti-LGBTQ activists at two Rio Rancho City Council meetings this April — parents of district students and/or supporters of the First Amendment may be wondering if such demands might possibly have an impact on their various Sandoval County schools’ libraries. 

Following a short season of often-dramatic, often-loud and often-interrupted public meetings — with calls to remove books made by members of Massachusetts-based group MassResistance — the Rio Rancho City Council voted unanimously, 6-0 on April 27, on a resolution wholeheartedly supporting the public libraries, and the Information Systems Department. They also voted to approve the libraries’ handling of potentially controversial materials. 

Already this resolution pointed out, all area libraries are divided into separate sections for children, teenagers, and adults, and children with library cards are able to borrow only materials considered appropriate for their ages. 

The Signpost reported in May that the council’s resolution stated that, “The responsibility for children at a public library, and decisions about what materials are suitable, rests with the parent or guardian.” 

Arthur Schaper, a MassResistance spokesperson speaking from California, said, “‘Book ban’ is a talking point co-opted from the left. These are not book bans! These are pornography bans!” The ‘pornography’ alluded to includes This Book is Gay, a sex-ed book for LGBTQ teens, prompting Schaper to clarify his group’s perspective, “Homosexuality is a destructive behavior! Transgenderism is a mental illness!”

The Bernalillo Public Schools district has said nothing in particular about book banning of any sort, or even about school libraries, in their current 30-page District of Bernalillo Public Schools Strategic Plan, but Matthew Montaño, Bernalillo School District Superintendent, has written more-generally in that document about the district’s wholehearted support of students’ access to wide-ranging knowledge and an education.

“By using the riches of language, culture, and tradition as assets for our students and families, we will ensure that each of our students is challenged in their learning, so they are prepared for the future and ready to reach their fullest potential,” Montaño said.

The school district serves at least seventeen different Sandoval County communities, from Algodones to Zia Pueblo, many of them including demographics that, historically, have often been disenfranchised. According to the school district’s website, 52% of Bernalillo Public Schools’ students are Native American, and 35% are Hispanic. 

Robin, an area parent who prefers not to include her last name here, told the Signpost “I have three children who have gone through the Bernalillo Public Schools system and have used their libraries, and our experiences with those libraries have always been positive, and their librarians have always been very helpful.”

Araceli Gutierrez, Administrative Assistant for Bernalillo High School, speaking of her school’s library and its continuing importance, said, “The students get their textbooks from there. And they get their Chromebooks there. And it’s good they have such access to a library. ... I know the librarians try to find appropriate books for the students’ various ages, and they try to present a good variety. The librarians I’ve worked with are trustworthy, and they have always had the students’ best interests at heart.”


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