ACLU Criticizes Utah School District for Removing Lesbian Parenting Book

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Monday July 2, 2012

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is criticizing a Utah school district's decision to remove a children's book about lesbian parents raising children from its libraries, the Utah newspaper, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Officials from ACLU of Utah said the removal of the picture book, "In Our Mother's House," by Patricia Polacco, from the Davis School District's elementary school libraries is unconstitutional. The organization also wants to talk to with the district's superintendent Bryan Bowels about the issue and "the constitutional implications" the restrictions of the book could have.

"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 book was removed from elementary schools after students' parents complained about the story's gay-friendly topic. Students are still allowed to take out the book but they must get consent from a parent.

The book started gaining negative attention in January after a mother of a kindergarten student at Windridge Elementary in Kaysville, Utah, which is about 23 miles north of Salt Lake City, was upset when her child took out the book out the library and brought it home, the article notes. Chris Williams, the district's spokesman, said the student's parents complained to elementary school officials.

On April 30, a seven-member school committee, which is made up of teachers, administrators and parents, ruled in a 6-1 vote that the book did not meet the district's curriculum standards.

"State law says schools can't have anything in the curriculum that advocates homosexuality," Williams said. "That is why it is now behind the counter." He added that school district officials only received three to five phone calls in the past few weeks from individuals who expressed negative feedback about the ruling.

The spokesman also said that the book was put into the library because a student who attended the elementary school is being raised by a lesbian couple.

A similar incident occurred in May of 2010 when a New Jersey school board voted to ban a book that involved gay themes from a high school. The board, which banned three books in total tht were about human sexuality, made their decision after a they received a complaint from a local chapter of Glenn Beck's 9.12 Project, a conservative organization that asks individuals to "Help us restore America."