Davis County has the dubious honor of having been held up twice as an embarrassing example of attempted book banning in local libraries.
In 1991, on the 200th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights, observances included Banned Book Week, "intended as a reminder that American citizens have, and should practice, the right to free speech, free expression and free press," according to the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom.
Two incidents in Davis County were cited as having violated that tenet. In 1978 Jeanne Layton, director of the Davis County Library in Bountiful, lost her job for refusing to remove Don DeLillo's Americana from the library shelves.
And in 1991 parents complained to the Davis County School Board because John Gardner's Grendel was required reading in the English curriculum at Viewmont High School. The book was removed as a class requirement.
The practice of banning certain books has a disturbing history during the 20th century that doesn't bear revisiting here. But we had hoped the bigotry and provincialism that usually prompt such actions would dwindle with better education and understanding.
The Davis County School District is now targeting books for children that portray families headed by same-sex parents and a book with the message that bullying of homosexual teenagers is wrong. In Davis County, it seems, book banning based on intolerance is alive and well.
The issue was prompted by a parent's complaint about an acclaimed book titled In Our Mothers' House that was chosen by librarians specifically because there are children in the district with two same-sex parents. Librarians, rightly, wanted to make those children feel included and also wanted to help other children understand that various types of families are all acceptable. Totally Joe, about a gay teenager who is bullied, glimpses the suffering of gay teens, who all too often take their own lives.
Now the district is on a witch hunt, asking district librarians to report other books with gay or lesbian characters.
DaNae Leu, a Davis media specialist, appears to be the Jeanne Layton of 2012. She says her goal is "to provide literature for my students that encompasses the whole scope of humanity." She argues, correctly, that, while parents should be able to steer their own children toward or away from a particular book, they "shouldn't expect to make that choice for other people's children."
She is absolutely right. The district is wrong.