By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – Last week the Vanguard called out the local librarian for shutting down a community discussion of trans athletes. While the librarian mishandled the situation, what has happened since—three bombs threats that have put not only the library but nearby students at Davis High and North Davis Elementary into lock down—is just as problematic and potentially far more damaging to the students.
According to the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department, these messages share a common thread of hateful content and revolve around the mentioned meeting.
“The Yolo County Sheriff’s Office is taking these threats with utmost seriousness and is committed to safeguarding our community. Stringent measures, including thorough checks for potential devices within the library, as well as extra patrols are being implemented,” they said.
“Given the library’s proximity to schools, the police department is maintaining close communication with these institutions to keep them informed. It’s clear that these threats are meant to disrupt and intimidate our community, particularly affecting the library’s functioning. Despite these acts of intimidation, we stand firm in our support for the library, its dedicated staff, and the individuals who utilize its services, along with those attending the nearby schools,” they added.
After the third such threat on Monday, Beth Bourne finally put out a statement on behalf of the Yolo County Moms For Liberty group: “The threats of violence made toward the Mary L. Stephens Davis Branch Library and its staff are appalling. We are deeply disheartened to learn of these threats and how it disrupts and jeopardizes the safety of the community.”
She continued, “The response to speech that you disagree with is always more speech. Violence is never the appropriate response.”
She also disavowed any connection to the threats of violence.
The statement continued, “Any news reporting that would imply our organizations are in any way associated with or responsible for these threats is wrong and maliciously inaccurate.”
The group has in the year of 2023, locally, ratcheted up the heat on local government and the community. While I think it is natural for there to be uncertainty during times of rapid cultural change and there are legitimate issues of how to address fairness and equity with respect to trans-athletes participating in sporting events and parents being involved in critical decisions in their children’s lives, I wonder if this group is stopping to consider the overall impact of their approach.
Have they brought more awareness to this issue or have they simply hardened the views on both sides of the political and cultural divide?
You can argue that Sophia Lorey had the right to speak as I have and also question whether her approach of using terms that have become seen as offensive—biological males for instance—are the best approach to gaining understanding and dialogue.
Moreover, as we have seen throughout the state, caught in the middle of this are the very people that everyone claims they want to protect—the students, many of them vulnerable and unsure about themselves and the world that they live in.
Yesterday Attorney General Rob Bonta took the next step by suing Chino Valley Unified District over their policy that the AG believes is tantamount to forced outing.
Attorney General Rob Bonta said the policy “requires schools to inform parents, with minimal exceptions, whenever a student requests to use a name or pronoun different from that on their birth certificate or official records, even without the student’s permission (and) requires notification if a student requests to use facilities or participates in programs that don’t align with their sex on official records.”
Bonta challenged the policy, which he maintains “violates the California Constitution and state laws safeguarding civil rights, and has already caused and is threatening to cause LGBTQ+ students with further mental, emotional, psychological and potential physical harm.”
Meanwhile, the victims in all of this are the students.
In a powerful article in the Riverside Press Enterprise, they note: “LGBTQ students on new school rules: ‘It’s clear our lives aren’t important.’”
They talked to LGBTQ students at Temecula who “rather than spend the year planning for college, prom, and graduation nights,” LGBTQ students across Southern California “are worrying about their local school boards.”
“We’re angry at the school board for thinking they could take advantage of us,” one student said. “This is our education – we’re not going to let them censor it because we deserve the best.”
She explained she remembers being called a “monster” at a Temecula City Council meeting. She was 15 at the time.
“The only hate I’d ever faced was from kids who don’t think for themselves yet. But here, there were adults who spoke so horribly to me,” she said.
“I’m not somebody who has hate in their heart,” she added. “I don’t understand how you can hate someone just because you don’t understand what they’re going through.”
The article added “many LGBTQ students and those who support them are returning to school campus environments that have changed in the past year — and not for the better, they say.”
We are starting to see this here.
It was just under three months ago at the end of last school year, teacher and DTA President Victor Legunes noted that “we perhaps here have not been able to have a positive end to our year. Our students, families and staff, our schools have not had the positivity that we would hope, and instead some having been, been met with intimidation, being othered and feelings of insecurity when we should be feeling quite the opposite. Pride.
“Schools are focal points for community. They serve as the center around which we organize the lives of our youth and how in turn they organize our lives. And the community is created between the students, educators, families, guardians, the public. It’s one that has to be welcoming.”
In a quote widely attributed to Voltaire, he stated, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
While it is questionable as to whether he said it, the spirit of that quote I try my best to live by.
At the same time, we seem to forget the corollary to freedom—responsibility. Just because you have the right to say something, doesn’t make it prudent to do so.
So I implore those in this community that are attempting to rile people up to in fact ask a critical question. Has anything you’ve done made things better for yourself, your family and your community?
And if the answer is no—then perhaps it is time to change tactics.