Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 4:14 PM
SALT LAKE CITY — The Davis School District is being sued for removing a children’s book about a family with same-sex parents from its library shelves.
“We want them to put the book back on the shelf,” said John Mejia, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah.
ACLU of Utah and the American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City on behalf of a mother whose children attend Windridge Elementary School in Kaysville.
“By putting it behind the counter and requiring parental permission, the district is saying there is something shameful about this book,” Mejia said. “Your putting students through all these special hoops for one book is not fair.”
Mejia said as far as he knows no other school district in the state has restricted access to “In Our Mother’s House,” written by Patricia Polacco. The book is about three adopted children and their two mothers.
“I was shocked when I heard that a handful of parents had made a decision about whether everyone else’s kids could have access to this book,” said Tina Weber, a district parent who is listed as a plaintiff along with her two children.
“Our job as parents is to make sure we teach our children about our values. We can do that without imposing our personal views on the rest of the school community.”
The district’s Library Media Steering Committee voted 6-1 at its May 23 meeting to remove the book from all of its shelves after a group of parents complained about the book.
According to the lawsuit, librarians for four elementary schools bought copies of the book. The schools are South Weber Elementary, Parkside Elementary in Clinton, Snow Horse Elementary in Kaysville and Windridge Elementary.
The book is not banned by the district, and students who present a permission slip can still read the book.
District officials met in June with those who wanted the book back on the shelf.
“When we met, there was some mutual understanding, and we haven’t heard from anyone since those meetings,” said Christopher Williams, Davis School District’s communication director.
The district has not been formally served with the lawsuit, Williams said.
“We still feel comfortable with the process we followed,” he said. “We had a policy in place even before the controversy of the book came to fruition.”
Williams said the district has not taken any rights away from parents who want their child to have access to the book.
District officials said in June the book was removed from school library shelves because state law says schools cannot have anything in the curriculum advocating homosexuality.
The book was bought originally because a student at Windridge Elementary has two mothers, district officials had said.
The book was removed after a parent submitted complaint forms from 25 other parents.
The lawsuit quotes several of the complaints.
According to the court documents, library books are not instructional materials under state law, and including library books depicting families with same-sex parents does not mean an endorsement or “advocacy of homosexuality.”
Also, the Supreme Court ruled more than 30 years ago that school officials could not remove books from shelves because “they or their constituents disagree with the ideas those books contain,” according to the lawsuit.
Polacco, the book’s author, has written several books about families from different races, religions, ethnicities, cultures and backgrounds, according to the court documents.
The district has many of Polacco’s children’s books on its shelves for students.
The lawsuit asks the district to return the book to library shelves without the permission slip process.
It also seeks $1 in damages, attorney’s fees and a ban on future restrictions based on a book’s perceived “homosexual themes” or “advocacy of homosexuality.”
Information from The Associated Press is included in this article.
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