Utah School District Agrees Not to Remove Library Books Containing LGBT Content

Affiliate: ACLU of Utah
January 31, 2013 4:56 pm

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SALT LAKE CITY – Davis School District in Utah has agreed to never again remove a children’s book about a family with same-sex parents from its library shelves based solely on its content. The agreement settles a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Utah on behalf of a mother with children in the district.

Parents may still use the library’s normal procedures to prevent their children from checking out particular books, but the school agreed not to remove the book from the shelves just because it features a same-sex couple or because it contains “homosexual content.”

“I am happy that all parents will now have the chance to make their own decisions about their own children,” said Tina Weber, the mother who filed the challenge. “Nobody should be able to tell other people’s kids what they can and can’t read.”

In Our Mothers’ House, by acclaimed children’s author Patricia Polacco, was initially placed in the Easy Reading section of Windridge Elementary School in Davis County. After some parents complained the book “normalizes a lifestyle we don’t agree with,” the school district instructed librarians to put the book behind a counter and to lend it only with written permission from a parent. This decision also applied to the three other school libraries with copies of the book.

When the school district restricted access to In Our Mothers’ House, it asserted that leaving the book on the shelves would violate Utah’s sex-education law, which prohibits instructional materials containing “advocacy of homosexuality.” The school now agrees that library books are not covered under the statute and that including books in the library that depict families with same-sex parents does not constitute endorsement or “advocacy of homosexuality.”

“We’re glad that the school agrees that they can’t remove a book from the shelves just because some people don’t agree with its content,” said John Mejia, legal director of the ACLU of Utah. “Children shouldn’t be discouraged from learning about different families or cultures by keeping books behind a counter as if there was something wrong with them.”

Polacco was inspired to write the book after attending a school assembly where a girl with same-sex parents was not allowed to read an essay about her family because a teacher said “You don’t come from a real family.” The Davis School District does not censor any of Polacco’s other books, which focus on families of different backgrounds and cultures.

“Schools shouldn’t make children with same-sex parents feel as if their families are something that should be hidden,” said Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “Kids from all kinds of families attend Davis County schools, including families with same-sex parents. We’re glad the school will never again keep books that portray these families out of sight.”

More information about this case, including the complaint, can be found at: www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/aw-and-cw-v-davis-school-district

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