SOUTH OGDEN — A lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union outlined a class action lawsuit the ACLU has filed against Davis School District at a forum at the Pleasant Valley Library on Monday.
Leah Farrell spoke at a forum attended by about 40 area residents to discuss an action the district took last school year to keep a book, “In Our Mothers’ House,” off of regular library shelves.
The action keeps students from being able to check out the book by children’s author Patricia Polacco unless they have a permission slip signed by their parents.
The book is about a lesbian couple raising three children and their happy life at home as they interact with their children and neighbors.
“This lawsuit is in behalf of all children, protecting all children and their First Amendment rights,” Farrell said.
Farrell said the school district has three weeks to reply to the lawsuit that was filed Nov. 13.
She said how the district responds will determine the course of the court action.
Farrell said district representatives have pointed to a Utah statute against advocating homosexuality.
But she believes the statute does not apply, because having the book in the library does not make it curriculum, does not make it instructional material and does not advocate homosexuality.
“It’s just like a book about a Catholic family does not advocate Catholicism,” Farrell said.
Those attending also watched a video featuring families reading the book with their children that was Utah’s submission to a Banned Books Week observance.
“There wasn’t a day in my life that I didn’t feel deeply loved,” is a quote from the child narrator featured in the book as it was read in the video.
Wanda Mae Huffaker, chairwoman of the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the Utah Librarians Association, spoke of her excitement about how the video portrays a positive message.
She encouraged those on both sides of the issue to stay positive.
Speaking also for the rights of those who didn’t want their children to read the book, Huffaker said: “Along with the freedom to read is the freedom to not read — that has to be respected as well.”
Huffaker and others spoke in favor of leaving the book on the school library shelves and educating parents about their right to keep librarians from checking a book out to their children.
“I’m not going to change anyone’s mind about what they should read,” she said.
Huffaker encouraged people in attendance to like the Salt Lake County Library System Facebook page where the video is featured and to share the video with their friends.
Amir Jackson, founding director of the Nurture the Creative Mind Foundation, spoke about how the discussion has evolved around what is “normal” for families.
“It’s a nicer way — it’s still bigotry,” he said. “It’s just a more genteel bigotry.”
Jackson, who is a black man, said the book banning is about fear.
“If my child is exposed to this, they will become it,” he said, explaining the thoughts of those who want the book kept off the shelf. “If you have black kids in the school, other kids will become tan.”
Jackson said he learned from an experience when he was picking out books he wanted to read to his unborn son. The books mostly represented black people.
“I want him to be able to see himself … that he can be that hero, that prince,” Jackson said.
“Those of us that fall outside of the fringe that most people see as normal should feel good about ourselves,” he said. “The system that is preventing this is the very system that should help our children.”
A lesbian couple and their daughter, from Sugarhouse, whose family looks very much like the family portrayed in the book, also were on the panel.
“Things are changing slower here than on the East Coast,” said Jamila Tharp in an interview. She is one of the moms in the family.
“We are just living our lives and have good morals and ethics,” Tharp said. “Just recognize that love is love, and love makes a family.”
The couple’s 10-year-old daughter, Abigail, said she was saddened when some students in a public school didn’t want to be around her because they realized she had two mothers.
The event was sponsored by the OUTreach Resource Center of Ogden, which provides educational, health and enrichment opportunities and support for 350 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allied youth ages 14-23, as well as community services for LGBT and allied adults.