Book Bans and Participating in the PACC's Forum - Three Candidates Tackle the Toughest Questions


This is the fifth article in a series. In an effort to better understand what voters want to know about the seven candidates for the Board of Education, we invited the community to send in questions. Each candidate was given the same set of ten questions and were invited to respond to any six of them. They had six days to submit their answers. The questions ranged from handling division on the BOE to keeping school taxes low and to more pointed questions about book banning and school segregation.

Five of the seven candidates responded by the deadline. Juan Pabon sent his late and will be included in the remaining articles. We have not yet heard from Jim Smith.

We will present the responses in a series of articles, publishing them in collections that will allow the community to directly compare responses from the various candidates. Responses are listed in no particular order and the order will vary from article to article. The first one tackled the question of keeping taxes low and was the only question that all five respondents chose as one of their six to answer. The second looked into the candidates’ specific backgrounds and asked them to pinpoint some of the issues they see in the district. The third story asked the candidates what they would change in the district if they had a magic wand. Yesterday’s covered yearly goals and unifying the BOE.

Today we’ll tackle the two most controversial questions that were submitted, both of which tie in to issues that involve national or global news. Both questions were selected by the same three candidates, perhaps signaling their willingness to confront the most challenging topics.

What books would you like to see banned?

Joseph Siano - “Personally I do not believe in banning books. Books can be powerful tools for educating people, unlocking new perspectives, and inspiring us to think differently about the world. In addition, literature has served humanity since the dawn of time and it is important to protect our access to it. At the same time however, we should have some regard for age-appropriateness when it comes to choosing titles for readers of certain ages; not every book is appropriate for everyone. That’s why libraries are great places—they curate their selection in order to provide age-appropriate titles within an accessible space where patrons can find what they need without leaving home or breaking the bank! This is especially important because children are impressionable and may take in mature themes that they may not yet be able to contextualize correctly or understand fully on a cognitive level given their stage of development. It is always best practice to place educational responsibility upon the parent or guardian before adding something that could potentially jeopardize a child's safety or understanding of life into their environment.”

Tanya Suarez - “None.”

Cameron Hebron - “Catcher in the Rye! Holden was whining for what? Couldn’t relate y’all should put Citizen by Claudia Rankine or some belle hooks in the library or something more relatable. In all seriousness though, the Spanish Inquisition was over 500 years ago. Things feel very Don Quixote about these book bannings. Why are we censoring speech through book bans?”

How can you attend an event hosted by the PACC - an organization that has refused to condemn Hamas for their heinous crimes?

Tanya Suarez - “My participation in the PACC forum had everything to do with behaving as a cohesive community and not about singling out a group of people for crimes they did not commit. Of course I fully condemn the acts of Hamas and feel deeply for the families who suffer as a consequence of their attack. I feel deeply for those who experience the backlash of these acts which are rooted in antisemitism. I wish for no one to live in fear. I wish for no one to live in agony. I hold those same wishes for the Palestinian people within our community.

PACC sent out a letter to all candidates that expressed a shared solemnity for those who have been killed and who are suffering. For me, this was enough because it allowed for their grievance too. It was not an expectation of mine for PACC to explicitly condemn Hamas. Both the acts of Hamas and the Israeli government are war crimes. And with this being true, I honor and sympathize with the grief of both my Jewish and Palestinian neighbors and friends for both groups suffer from the crimes of their leaders. It is my sincere wish to see the community come together as one, allowing for the sincere grief that is valid and real for both the Palestinian and Jewish people of Clifton. As a diverse community, we get to show up for others in the ways we wish others would show up for us. At least that’s how I move about the world and that is why I attended PACC's forum.”

Cameron Hebron - “I’ve been abundantly clear that my primary concern is education as it affects health outcomes in our community. Regardless of recent events, the PACC had parents and families who wanted to know who they’re voting for. As a young leader in this community I need to form relationships with every community built on equity and good faith. I hope to show the next generation of students that perpetuating hate is wrong, period.”

Joseph Siano - “Personally, I attended this event for two primary reasons: first, I always strive to engage with voters regardless of their circumstances or affiliations; and second, there were parents in our district attending this event who needed to hear my views on important issues such as special education, anti-discrimination policies, and early childhood education - this was a forum for the board of education, not a political event.”

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