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Pending ACLU Lawsuit May Prevent Utah School Officials from Restricting Library Materials

The Davis School District in Davis County, Utah has reversed its decision to place a book depicting lesbian protagonists behind the librarian’s desk in several elementary schools. The book, In Our Mothers’ House by noted children’s author Patricia Polacco, was initially removed from Davis’ elementary school library shelves after a parent protest was launched by a mother whose kindergartener brought the book home.

In%20Our%20Mothers%27%20House.jpgThe mother’s petition to have the book removed from libraries garnered signatures from 25 other parents in the district. Officials responded by putting the book behind the librarian’s desk and requiring written parent permission for students to check out the book.

In response, the ACLU LGBT Project and the ACLU of Utah filed a lawsuit claiming that the move violated First Amendment rights. While parents in favor of the book’s removal stated that they did not want their children to have access to a book that “normalizes a lifestyle that we don’t agree with,” Tina Weber, on whose behalf the lawsuit was filed, cited the individual responsibility of parents to instill values in their children.

Weber, herself a mother of two children who attend an elementary school in the Davis district, believes parents have the right to limit what their children read, but that this right does not extend to restricting access to certain library materials. Weber states that the actions of the district have the effect of “imposing … personal views on the rest of the school community.”

Though litigation is still pending in the courts, the Davis School District has returned the book to the shelves of the library in the four elementary schools that own a copy. Still to be decided in the lawsuit is a question of interpretation of Utah’s sex education law which bans advocating a gay or lesbian lifestyle and whether or not this law extends to library materials. As the lawsuit cites, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled decades ago that school officials did not have the right to restrict library materials simply because “they or their constituents disagree with the ideas those books contain.”