OGDEN — An Ogden School District librarian told those attending a Monday panel discussion that safety needs to be addressed on both sides of the issue of censorship of a book in Davis district schools.
In an interview, Kathy Gambles said librarians in Ogden schools are required to be certified both as teachers and as librarians.
But, she said, this is only the case in five districts in the state. She said other districts rely only on aides or others untrained as librarians.
“It creates the kind of things that parents can dictate,” she said, referring to the book’s removal. She and others attending the discussion said complaints by some parents took the book out of regular circulation for all children.
“We are so much in need of safety,” she told the panel and those participating. “That’s wherever you are. It starts with respect. It starts with authors like Patricia Polacco, who writes about all different kinds of people.”
Gambles spoke from the audience at a discussion at Weber County Library’s Pleasant Valley Branch on the subject of bullying as well as the recent action by the Davis School District to remove a book there.
The panel discussion and community forum was sponsored by a new group, A Community Stands Up, which was formed after a recent Ogden vigil for a teen who had died.
The teen had attended the OUTreach Resource Center, a drop-in center for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teens and their friends.
The book the panel discussed was “In Our Mothers’ House,” by Patricia Polacco (Philomel Books, $17.99).
Panel member Jamilla Tharp, a mother who is raising three children in a lesbian partnership such as portrayed in the book, read parts of the publication.
The book, written from a child’s perspective, tells about the child’s two mothers and how they laugh, play and care for their children.
“They both got tears in their eyes when they told me what it was like to hold me for the first time,” reads the book.
“Our mothers are so different from each other that all of us wondered how they found each other at all,” reads another part.
Gambles said a professional librarian can regulate which books an individual child is allowed to check out when parents give information and consent for him or her to do so.
“How do we deal with it in a way that’s not fear-based but heart-based?” Gambles asked those who participated.
Panel members were asked to give their thoughts on what should be done to resolve this issue in the future.
Tharp said people need to realize that homophobia hurts anyone who is seen in any way as different from the norm.
“It’s so damaging at so many levels,” she said. “It damages spirit, heart and mind.”
A panel member, the Rev. Robb Tujillo, who serves with the Old Catholic Church and who is raising children in a gay relationship, said when community standards are set, all people should be involved.
“My desire for the community is that we should live up to the community standards we say we believe in,” he said.
Eric Amsel, professor and chairman of the Department of Psychology at Weber State University, said he advocates patience.
“This will just take time,” he said.
There was room for positive reflection about the way Utahns are responding to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals.
“I have been so impressed with the LDS Church, how it has come around,” said the Rev. Theresa Novak, of the Ogden Unitarian Universalist Church. “Every LDS person in this state has a gay relative because they have large families. … Do the math.”
Laurie Caldwell, visiting from Sugarland, Texas, also spoke from the audience, telling Ogden School Board member Shane Story to address the issue of bullying being sparked by fears about differences.
“I challenge you to have it brought up and noted,” Caldwell said.
Story, who attended to discuss school policies regarding bullying, read from the district’s policy against harassment and intimidation. He told Caldwell he would make sure the policy was re-emphasized in the district.