Jennifer Morrison: All students deserve to have themselves represented in school materials

Move to ban books in Utah are focusing on LGBTQ stories.

Beehive Book Ban | Pat Bagley

Most people would agree that the temperature of the “Culture War” is hot, even rivaling the heat of Manua Loa currently erupting on the big island of Hawaii.

While we have a scientific scale that can predict, monitor and alert us to the danger of a volcanic eruption, we don’t have a similar scale on which to monitor the threat of danger to each other and our communities by erasure tactics and rhetoric. We’re currently relying on death and loss to assess threat level. For example, the recent shooting at Club Q, in Colorado Springs, resulted in a new FBI warning regarding violence toward the LGBTQ+ community.

Rhetoric and fear-based tactics are successful because they’re emotionally driven techniques that dehumanize those viewed as “others” through unsubstantiated claims at best and blatant lies at worst. The public is whipped into a firestorm by non-specific allegations and depersonalized blame. Marginalized communities, often invisible to the most privileged demographics, are disproportionately targeted. The resulting loss is not generalized or depersonalized. It is felt individually among our most vulnerable.

We know that there are LGBTQ+ students attending public schools in Utah. We also know that there are kids within public schools in Utah who are being raised by their gay parents. Individuals who regularly see faces like theirs and their families on TV and in books forget that there are children who rarely have that experience. These individuals ignore the magic of a child seeing herself in a Disney princess for the first time or the excitement of a child reading about a family that is like theirs.

At the foothills of fear-based fire and rhetoric, people have forgotten or ignored the importance of representation for all students. The targeted “othering” of the culture war has maligned our educators and taken the focus off of the educational, social, and emotional benefits of representation for our students.

Recently the Alpine School District removed 22 “challenged books’' from its libraries. Mark Clement with The Alpine School District said in an email response to inquiry, “I do seem to remember that there was a higher percentage of challenged books that address LGBTQ+ topics than other topics, but it was not overwhelming.”

In fact, two-thirds of the removed books contain LGBTQ+ characters. While most were removed from a single library, there are real concerns regarding targeted book bans and its effects. When asked how many or if any books featuring characters from the LGBTQ+ community remain in ASD libraries, the officials I contacted were unable to answer. When asked when the newly banned books would be replaced with books written with similar characters that answer was also unknown.

With LGBTQ+ parents called “groomers” for existing and any relationships that is not heterosexual being called “pornographic” one must ask: Are we lacking the answers to these questions or is district leadership afraid to answer? One could argue for the latter. After all, citizens have even requested police visit local schools on the premise that there is “pornographic material” being offered to students in the form of these now banned books.

By erasing representation of our students who identify as LGBTQ+ and those whose families include members of the LGBTQ+ community, these students lose this access to a sense of belonging and the confidence, safety and joy that belonging brings. The venting volcanic rhetoric has become like lava with a malevolent goal of the erasure of our LGBTQ+ community.

All students deserve to have themselves and their families represented in school materials. We need a cooling effect on rhetoric that dehumanizes and targets marginalized communities. Students and their families deserve to exist without the threat of erasure and our dedicated educators and staff deserve support rather than allegations that put them and the students they teach at risk for increased violence.

Jennifer Morrison

Jennifer Morrison, Eagle Mountain, received her degree in sociology and went on to earn a multiple subject teaching credential before moving on to work in the private sector.