Controversy in the Davis School District over limiting student access to a book about a lesbian couple raising a family continued Thursday, when a national anti-censorship group asked school officials to reconsider a recent decision to place the picture book In Our Mothers' House behind counters in elementary libraries.
The Kids' Right to Read Project, a joint effort of the New York-based National Coalition Against Censorship and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, wrote to Superintendent Bryan Bowles.
"Parents who object to the book could easily supervise their children's reading choices," the groups said, but restricting the access of others "diminishes the education value of the library whose primary role is to allow students to make choices according to their own interests, experiences, and family values."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah on Tuesday sent a similar letter to Bowles, stating that the decision to limit access to the book by author Patricia Polacco is likely unconstitutional.
"Federal courts have consistently concluded that the First Amendment protects student access to books in their school libraries, free from limits based on the administration's disagreement with the viewpoints expressed in the books," said John Mejia, legal director of the ACLU of Utah.
"From what we know of the district's removal of the book, we have serious concerns that the district may have fallen short of these protections."
The district's decision to keep the book behind the counter followed an April 30 meeting during which a seven-member committee determined it isn't aligned with district curriculum standards. The committee of teachers, administrators and parents voted 6-1 to keep the book off shelves, with Bountiful High librarian Trudena Fager casting the dissenting vote.
District spokesman Chris Williams said the decision was made because state law dictates that curriculum cannot advocate homosexuality.
Concerns about the book surfaced in January, after the mother of a kindergarten student at Windridge Elementary in Kaysville became upset when her child checked out the book and brought it home. The mother and her husband took their concerns to elementary school officials, according to Williams.
Williams said the book was purchased in part because a student who attended Windridge Elementary has two mothers and librarians wanted to foster inclusion.
The Kids' Right to Read Project recently fought to return The Family Book by Todd Parr, which refers to same-sex couples as parents, to schools in Erie, Illinois, where some had banned it.
Shauna Lund, another district spokesman for the Davis School District, said Wednesday that Bowles has been in conversations with the ACLU.
"He stands by the process we use for elementary school library books. He stands by what the committee decided," she said. "Whether he agrees with it or not isn't the issue here. It went through the process, the committee made the decision and the district stands by the decision."