Huntington Beach mayor pro tem seeks to identify, stop kids from reading ‘obscene’ public library books

People come and go from the Huntington Beach Central Library on May 1.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Huntington Beach Mayor Pro Tem Gracey Van Der Mark has introduced an agenda item at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting that would filter out some books she deems obscene or pornographic that are currently available to children at the city’s public libraries.

“Our city libraries should not be engaged in infecting our children with obscenity or pornography,” Van Der Mark wrote, in part, in a memo to her fellow council members.

She cited the U.S. Department of Justice, which states that obscenity is not protected under 1st Amendment rights to free speech.


Van Der Mark’s item, if approved, directs the city manager to work with the city attorney to return to the City Council this August with a proposed library ordinance that would make obscene and/or pornographic materials unavailable to minors. City Atty. Michael Gates would evaluate materials flagged by screeners to determine if they meet the obscene or pornographic criteria.

The item also seeks to create new protocols for books or content yet to be acquired by the public library that are intended for children, to be screened for obscenity and/or pornography.

Last week, Van Der Mark publicly spoke out at a Huntington Beach Union High School District board meeting. She was critical of an Edison High math teacher’s reaction while an LGBTQ+ Pride-based segment of a student-produced show was shown in her class.

In a cellphone video that went viral, the teacher is heard admonishing her students for complaining about the segment.

Many in the community are pushing back against Van Der Mark‘s library item, with social media blasts sent out encouraging public comments at Tuesday night’s meeting.

“What kind of society will we leave for our kids?” Councilwoman Natalie Moser tweeted out on Friday. “I certainly don’t think book banning is the way forward.”

Friends of the Huntington Beach Public Library, a nonprofit, posted a statement on its website.

“For over 50 years the FOTL has worked to support and promote the Huntington Beach Public Library system,” the statement reads. “The FOTL rejects any attempts to ban books from our public libraries. We firmly believe that individuals have the right to decide what books they choose to read for themselves and their families and that no individual has a right to decide what you are allowed to read. We fully and unequivocally support our professional librarians to manage the collection of materials available in our public libraries, just as they have for more than 100 years.”

Tuesday’s Huntington Beach City Council meeting begins at 6 p.m. at City Hall.