College president pushes for book ban

Through a public records request, LGBTQ Fresno learned what sparked the local book banning fire…

In June of 2023, a month often full of color and joy, was quickly painted gray when a local college president set out to put a stop to inclusive books in public libraries. The President/CEO of Select Education Group (owners of Institute of Technology in Clovis, Calif.) spotted something he did not approve of at the Clovis Regional Library.

After observing an LGBTQ pride display at the Clovis Regional Library, Rick Wood then penned a letter on June 20, 2023 that began a book ban movement in Fresno County, that eventually resulted in the passing of the Parents Matter Act. Within the letter, Rick Wood claims that the “foundation of his remarks is God’s word and a Christian worldview.” These remarks made their way into a letter that set out to change the content that can be found in a public county library. This letter and Wood’s actions not only affected the Clovis Regional Library, but all Fresno County libraries.

Rick Wood of Select Education Group
Source: LinkedIn

Wood’s letter is blatant homophobia disguised as Christian virtue. One of his remarks from the letter includes, “Advocating for these abnormal lifestyle for children and making this literature available to children in our public libraries is irresponsible, immoral, and should cease immediately.” Taken directly from Wood’s letter, he claims that LGBTQ people live an abnormal, and even an immoral lifestyle, that should be kept away from children, treating LGBTQ people as criminals. In the same letter, Wood accuses LGBTQ people of being predators, grooming children, and states that they cannot reproduce. Wood references Abigail Shrier, a journalist and author of Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, that backs anti-trans ideology, to defend his anti-LBGTQ stance. To summarize Wood’s letter, he is driven by untrue information that feeds into anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. At the end of his letter, he concludes by stating “Get those books out of the public library in our city.”

In order of events, Wood’s letter resulted in an investigation of Fresno County library displays (June 2023), Clovis Councilmember Diane Pearce used this letter to create a social media statement to discourages parents from taking their children to the Clovis Regional Library during the month of June (June 2023), and then resulting in Pearce writing a letter to the Board of Supervisors requesting children’s books to be investigated (September 2023).

The Clovis City Council voted down a proposal to send a letter on behalf of the entire board. This allowed Pearce to continue her crusade, but as a single councilmember. Pearce’s letter made a point to specify that the investigation is not targeting a specific group, although it can be presumed that the letter does in fact target LGBTQ people. Her letter includes hateful lies, stating that there is “graphic sexual content, adult themes, images of sex acts” included in LGBTQ themed children’s books. These events then resulted in Fresno County’s Board of Supervisors to create and approve the Parents Matter Act. The act is in progress to begin book bans and censorship in all Fresno County Libraries.

Wood’s letter caused a string of events to get to this place – a place where children are now being shown that LBGTQ people are inappropriate and must be kept away from children. This ban is dangerous. This ban not only sets out to ostracize LGBTQ people but it teaches children that are part of the community in some way that their identity and/or a family member’s identity will not be supported or accepted. Children with LGBTQ parents or siblings may no longer be able to find a book they relate to. Children are now being sheltered from their own lives and experiences. Hate-fueled, this ban has the potential to cause additional harm to the LGBTQ+ community in Fresno County.

When reached for comment, Rick Wood shared the following:
“I stand by what I wrote and remain concerned about the blatant disregard for the well being of children in our community.”
“The letter was not written to you and was not intended for public consumption…”
“…you do not have my permission to publish my letter to the Mayor or quote its contents or publish this response in any way.”

He declined to respond to our questions or further comment on the matter.

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