The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the Davis School District after elementary schools in the district were instructed to remove a children’s book about a family with same-sex parents from library shelves.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Tina Weber, a mother whose children attend one of the schools where the book was restricted.
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 a group of parents complained that the book “normalizes a lifestyle we don’t agree with,” the school district instructed librarians to place the book behind the library counter and to lend it only with written permission from a parent.
“I was shocked when I heard that a handful of parents had made a decision about whether everyone else’s kids could have access to this book,” Weber said in a press release. “Our job as parents is to make sure we teach our children about our values. We can do that without imposing our personal views on the rest of the school community.”
The school district asserts that leaving the book on the shelves would violate Utah’s sex education law, which prohibits instructional materials containing “advocacy of homosexuality.” The lawsuit argues that library books are not instructional materials under the statute and that including library books depicting families with same-sex parents does not constitute endorsement or “advocacy of homosexuality.”
The suit is just the most recent development involving In Our Mothers’ House. The book was removed from libraries in Davis County earlier this year after parents voiced concerns about the story’s suitability.
The decision to keep the book behind the counter came after an April 30 meeting with a seven-member committee comprised of teachers, administrators and parents. In a 6-1 vote, the committee moved the book behind the counter. Bountiful High librarian Trudena Fager cast the dissenting vote.
“Public schools cannot remove books from the library shelves because some people disagree with the books’ viewpoint,” said John Mejia, legal director of the ACLU of Utah. “Taking a book off the shelves and hiding it behind a librarian’s desk makes the book more difficult to read, and it sends the message that there is something wrong with the book and with children who have same-sex parents.”
Polacco said she 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 told her she did not, “come from a real family.” The Davis School District does not censor Polacco’s other books, which focus on families of different backgrounds and cultures.
“The fact of the matter is that children with same-sex parents attend schools across the country – including in Davis County. Removing books from the shelves won’t change that,” said Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “Children come from all types of families. Regardless of the race, sex or marital status of a child’s parents, they are part of the school community, and their families should not be hidden away as something shameful.”
The suit asks the court to issue an injunction against schools from restricting books based on interpretation of gay themes, return the books to library shelves and declare the school district violated First Amendment.
The book is a valuable resource that should be made available to children, said Rev. Marian Edmonds, the executive director of OUTreach Resource Center in Ogden.
“The children’s book, In Our Mothers’ House is an important resource that supports children and families of same-sex parents. Children and youth in Northern Utah face many challenges due to what are often exclusionary and rigid definitions of ‘family, leading to tragic consequences as children find themselves bullied in schools and rejected by society. This book teaches by example that the basis of a family is love, not gender stereotypes. Children in Davis County deserve to learn and grow in an environment that supports them and their families without out-dated prejudice,” Edmonds said.
OUTreach will hold a community forum at the Pleasant Valley Library, 5568 S. Adams Ave., Ogden, Nov. 26, 7 p.m. to provide an opportunity for the general public to discuss the issue and ask questions of an expert panel.