A picture book depicting a family with two moms was removed from school library shelves in Davis County after more than 20 parents complained, and the decision to restrict access is resulting in community discussions in Northern Utah. A panel discussion hosted by the Ogden OUTreach Resource Center on June 11 about the decision to remove In Our Mother’s House, by popular children’s book author Patricia Polacco attracted dozens of attendees.
The panel included three gay couples who shared their experiences raising children in Utah. One of the panelists, Jamila Tharp, appeared with her partner and their children while she began reading from the book that caused so much controversy.
“This family looks a lot like our family,” Tharp said before reading.
The decision to keep the book behind the counter in Windridge Elementary in Kaysville came after an April 30 meeting with a seven-member committee of teachers, administrators and parents. In a 6-1 vote, with a high school librarian casting the dissenting vote, the panel voted to restrict access to the book to only those with a note signed by their parents. The committee recommended the book for students in grades 3 to 6 after determining it was better suited for older readers.
The decision wasn’t enough for the parents of a kindergarten student who brought the book home in January. The parents gathered the required 25 signatures to have the book considered by a district-wide committee which voted to restrict access for all five schools that carried the book, said Chris Williams a district spokesperson.
“What we’re doing is following policy,” Williams said. “There is a policy in place for books to be reviewed and it’s not specific to any single book or any genre of book. The policy that we’ve been given has been followed… There is no list of books that will be banned or that are somehow treated differently than others. Each book is considered individually and the only way other books will be considered is if more petitions are brought forward.”
This is the first book Williams has seen in 13 years that has been considered by the district panel and he stresses that the book has not been banned, just moved to a restricted area.
When asked about the possible message this could send to students and parents that gay people are different, Williams said, “We have a strict policy against bullying and we do everything we can to stop it… The district is very pleased with community discussions and panels and hope that many more continue the discussion.”