29 September 2001


Fairfax County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Domenech speaks out on book issues


Dr. Domenech was a member of a panel on school book selection issues conducted at George Mason University (GMU) on 19 September 2001. Every parent with children in the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) should consider carefully what he had to say.

Dr. Domenech quickly labeled parents concerned with the extreme content in some books as "a good argument for school vouchers". Hmmm... that would eliminate the problem. Anybody who has a problem with graphic sex and violence or other extreme material in books being used in the county could just take a voucher and leave. This was surprising. Public school administrators are typically against school vouchers and choice. We thought public schools were supposed to be for all children. In any case, just go away was clearly the tone and message to concerned parents.

When a member of the audience presented the panel with actual excerpts from some books used in FCPS, neither Dr. Domenech, nor any of the panelists, took the challenge to read them out loud. They were just too graphic. One panelist said he knew they would offend people in the audience. Despite not being willing to read them, Dr. Domenech thought that this type of material was still acceptable in schools for your children, since in the books it was "in context".

Later, when asked if he thought there could be any material that might be inappropriate even if "in context", Dr. Domenech did not answer the question. A parent must conclude that in FCPS anything is acceptable reading for their children, since it is all "in context", at least as long as there are no pictures. Later, Dr. Domenech did say Playboy magazine was not ok.

Dr. Domenech said FCPS has adequate standards for book selection already. He didn’t let the audience know, that he informed the school board back in June, that his staff would be developing standards for book selection. Perhaps Dr. Domenech would like to share with the public just what the current standards are. Parents might conclude that there really are no standards now. We hope the new standards will be meaningful. They need to address controversial material like that in the books the panelists refused to read out loud.

Throughout the panel Dr. Domenech repeatedly made statements that the controversial books were only "supplemental or suggested". This is not true. They are being used in the core curriculum all over the county.

During the panel Dr. Domenech said a number of times that parents have a right to decide if a book is inappropriate for their child. PABBIS agrees with this 100 percent. However the responsibility shouldn’t lie with parents to somehow omnisciently know what is in every book their child may be exposed to at school. It seems that the FCPS position articulated was that FCPS will use anything and everything, no matter how graphic, controversial and extreme. However, if you catch it (in time) they will let you choose another book for your child. Virginia Code 8VAC20-170-10 requires a “special emphasis on the thorough evaluation of materials related to controversial or sensitive topics such as sex education, moral education or religion”. Virginia Code 22.1-208 states the “The entire scheme of instruction in the public schools shall emphasis moral education through lessons given by teachers and imparted by appropriate reading selections”. It does not say anything goes, as long as when someone complains the schools will agree to allow an alternate book.

Dr. Domenech vehemently denied that he had said a book with an oral sex description was ok for a 15-year old. This is another untruth. See the 14 June 2000 front-page article in the Metropolitan Section of the Washington Times. PABBIS talked to the reporter who wrote this article the day after the GMU panel, and she reiterated that the article was correct.

If Dr. Domenech doesn't think oral sex is an appropriate topic for a 15-year old public school student, why does he support its continued use? See previous PABBIS News on the Druids and The Pillars of the Earth book challenges. Druids contains oral sex and The Pillars of the Earth has forced oral sex during a two-person rape of a prostitute while others were watching! These books are still being used in the FCPS.

Clearly the FCPS actions show that they believe oral sex descriptions are acceptable. Concerned parents should wonder why Dr. Domenech was honest about it in the 14 June 2000 article, but is not now. Don’t mince words. Say what you do, and do what you say. Let’s be perfectly frank and open. FCPS believes oral sex descriptions are acceptable. Come on...... say it.

Most parents do not think oral sex descriptions and other extreme, graphic material is appropriate in History and English class books. The schools have no right to dictate these "values" (or lack of) on everybody. This is not a totalitarian state. FCPS supposedly supports an inclusive policy recognizing the cultural diversity in the public school system. The statements of the FCPS leader give us grave concern. FCPS does not have the right to trample over peoples values. What ever happened to the supposed FCPS objective of being inclusive to all the diversity of student’s (and parent’s) backgrounds? Graphic sex, violence, profanity, racial slurs and other extreme material offend many people, no matter how it is taught, and no matter what "context" it is put in.

PABBIS - Parents Against Bad Books In Schools