Book about lesbian mothers back on school library shelves
A children's book about a family with lesbian mothers is back on Davis School District library shelves more than eight months after a committee first decided to restrict access to it.
The district returned the book, In Our Mothers' House, by Patricia Polacco, to the regular shelves of four school libraries Monday in response to a lawsuit over the issue filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Utah in November on behalf of a Kaysville parent, said Chris Williams, Davis spokesman.
The district had removed the books from its shelves last spring after objections from a group of parents. First, a school committee decided to move the books to sections of the libraries meant for older elementary students. But parents were still not pleased, prompting a district committee to then vote to put the books behind school library counters, requiring parental permission slips in order for kids to check them out.
Now children may check out the book without parental permission. However, parents may specifically request that the school forbid their child from checking out the book.
"We haven't taken away the parents' right to be in the driver's seat regarding any book that they want their child to read or not read," Williams said. "We looked at our policy and we asked the question, 'Is there a less restrictive way we could honor parents' rights?' We decided, yes, there is."
The decision came after months of feedback from parents and various groups around the country, some of whom protested the decision to move the book and others who supported the district's decision, saying the book was not appropriate for young children and promoted homosexuality.
John Mejia, ACLU of Utah legal director, said the ACLU is pleased that the district reversed course. Williams has said the book was first purchased, in part, because a student who attended Windridge Elementary had two mothers, and librarians wanted to foster inclusion. Parkside, Snow Horse and South Weber elementaries also have copies of the book, he said.
"The children in the school district come from all sorts of families, and we think that to put a stigma on any family in the district is unfair and unwarranted," Mejia said of the district's earlier decision to place the book behind counters.
Tina Weber, the mother who sued the district, also applauded the decision Monday.
"I'm glad the school understands they made a mistake when they took the book off the shelves," Weber said in an ACLU news release. "A small group of people shouldn't be able to impose their personal values on everyone else by taking away access to books they might disagree with. It's not their job to decide what my kids can read that's my job as a parent."
And Brandie Balken, executive director of Equality Utah, said the decision will give children of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) parents the ability to again see their families represented "accurately as a part of their community at large."
Though the book has been returned to library shelves, Mejia said the ACLU is still hoping to work toward a settlement in the lawsuit. He said the ACLU hopes to ensure more books aren't pulled from school shelves in the future based on "viewpoint discrimination." He said the ACLU also hopes to clarify that state law prohibiting advocacy of homosexuality in sex-education classes is no reason to remove books from libraries.
In a letter being sent this week to parents who objected to the book, Pamela Park, Davis assistant superintendent, also explained that the district skipped a procedural step when limiting access to the book last year. The committee that decided to place the book behind library counters was supposed to send its recommendations to the assistant superintendent and she was supposed to review them, but that didn't happen.
Park wrote, to fix that oversight, she recently reviewed the committee's decision and decided there was a less restrictive way to both keep the book in the library and respect parental rights.