Orange Unified School District trustees at their Jan. 19, 2023 meeting. Credit: YouTube Screenshot
A school district in Orange County, California, has suspended its digital library app after complaints from parents that children in the second grade were able to access books they found to be inappropriate.
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The school district’s new superintendent, Edward Velasquez, announced that the district would be temporarily shutting down the Sora service, which allows users to borrow ebooks and audiobooks from a school’s library.
A parent found the book “A Polar Bear In Love” on her second-grade child’s app, called “Library Pass,” which came on a school-issued iPad.
“To be clear, this is absolutely not a censorship discussion. I am not here to restrict students’ rights to information and to books. This is a concern with the lack of vetting and surveillance of digital libraries,” the mother told the board.
“The entire manga is about a polar bear who falls in love with a seal,” a review of the book states. However, the male seal pup does not share the same feelings toward the adult bear.
In the book, a female polar bear falls in love with the male bear but gets jealous of the baby seal because it is “the object of [the male bear’s] affections.”
The book’s synopsis also describes the bear telling the seal “that once the latter’s all grown up, they’ll get married together.”
“The moment I saw him, he stole my heart,” a video of the animated polar bear shows.
Another parent was taken by surprise by the book called “The Music of What Happens.”
She heard swear words “f**k” and “s**t” from the audiobook her second-grader was listening to. The book, which is about a gay relationship between two high school boys, also discusses rape and details and sexual assault.
A synopsis from GoodReads.com describes one of the main characters from the book:
“Max: Chill. Sports. Video games. Gay and not a big deal, not to him, not to his mom, not to his buddies. And a secret: An encounter with an older kid that makes it hard to breathe, one that he doesn’t want to think about, ever.”
Board President Rick Ledesma agreed with the parent who brought this book to their attention.
“This warrants response. You want your child hearing that? This is probably the one time that it’s been the most important to respond. Y’all talk about taking care of kids. But you allow this under the guise of education,” Ledesma said at the meeting of the audience.
The superintendent sent a message to parents about the app, saying that apps and programs like this “must have the proper safeguards in place to allow parents to choose what they feel is appropriate for their child and ensure students are protected from content that is not age-appropriate.”
“Moving forward a committee will be formed to review app content before apps are approved for installation on student devices,” the school official added.
The question is, why are these books even on the app?