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Error compounded

Published June 22, 2012 1:01 am

Davis should hear dissenters
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Davis County School District only compounded its original mistake in limiting access to a book about a family with two lesbian mothers when it refused to allow opponents of the decision to speak at a school board meeting.

When Weston Clark, a former county teacher asked to be put on the agenda for the board's June 12 meeting to argue against the district's action to remove In Our Mothers' House from library shelves, Superintendent Bryan Bowles denied his request. Then, Clark says, Bowles offered to let dissenters introduce themselves to the board at the start of the meeting. Then, Clark says, Bowles rescinded that offer after Clark told reporters he intended to attend the meeting.

If all that is accurate, Bowles' behavior is wrong. On such a controversial topic and one that has so many ramifications for the district's children, patrons on both sides should have an equal opportunity to be heard — in public.

The excuse that there was not time to put Clark and his group on the published agenda as a separate item does not hold water. Most elected councils and boards provide a standard agenda item such as "other public business" or "patrons addressing the board." If the Davis school board doesn't, it should. It is simply not fair to deny a group a hearing at the time an issue is hot. They deserve their say.

And they have a right, if they choose, to talk with news media. Airing your position should not preclude you from also presenting it to the district board in a public meeting.

Hoping the issue will die down if it is ignored is not good policy or even realistic.

And the committee that made the recommendation to allow only children with written parental permission to see the book should step forward and give their reasons. The committee voted 6-1 to keep the book off shelves, with Bountiful High School librarian Trudena Fager casting the dissenting vote. A district spokesman said the decision was based on state law that prohibits school curriculum from advocating homosexuality. But library books are not part of the curriculum, and in any case, this book does not encourage anyone to take up homosexuality, if that were even possible.

The fear that exposing children to the reality of families with gay parents will somehow cause them to become gay is irrational. But such irrational fear leads to intolerance and bigotry, and bigotry too often leads to cruelty, of a kind that has led many gay teenagers in Utah to end their own lives. Books that foster understanding of many lifestyles and help prevent such cruelty should be made more available, not hidden away.