FARMINGTON — The Davis School District has reversed its position on the book “In Our Mothers’ House” and told district librarians to put it back on the shelf with regular books.
Instead of putting the book behind the counter and making students who want to read it bring a permission slip, district spokesman Chris Williams said, parents who don’t want their children to read it will have to tell the district.
“A parent always has that right, and this is a book that a parent always has the right to say, ‘my child can read it or my child can’t read it,’ ” he said.
“So yes, the book is back in general circulation, and if parents don’t want their child to have access to that book, they just email the librarian and their name is put in the database.”
He said the book is only in four of the district’s 86 schools and stressed that it never physically left any of those schools.
The book, which describes life in a lesbian household with numerous children, was removed from regular circulation last May after parent complaints that it promoted homosexuality.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the district, saying it discriminated against children of same-sex couples and left them open to public ridicule.
“The library should be a place where students can be free to learn about the world around them,” said John Mejia, legal director of the ACLU of Utah. “That can’t happen if a book is kept behind the desk, leading students to believe that there’s something wrong with it. We’re glad the school has removed that stigma. Now we just need to make sure that this does not happen again.”
Marian Edmonds, director of Ogden OUTreach, said the decision was a clear victory.
Ogden OUTreach is an Ogden-based resource center for gay youths. Edmonds held two public forums on “In Our Mothers’ House,” trying to draw attention to the controversy and force Davis School District to change its stand.
“I think that they knew that they were in the wrong and it was going to be a matter of time, and they thought they should cave in early rather than fight a losing battle,” she said.
“It was very, very clear that they were not doing the right thing. There were not a lot of people backing them up.”
ACLU attorney Leah Farrell said late Monday the lawsuit will still go forward, because the ACLU wants to make sure procedures are in place so this sort of discriminatory decision doesn’t happen again.
She said Monday’s announcement is a huge step in that direction.
“We think it’s really positive. We think it was motivated partially by the lawsuit and they were pressed to look at what they had done, and we’re just really pleased they have decided to do the right thing and put it back on the shelf.”
The book, “In Our Mothers’ House,” by Patricia Polacco, describes the life of two women who are married and have a number of children. It describes them from young life to old age, showing them meeting the same challenges and events in life as anyone else.
After hearing parental complaints about the book, a special Reconsideration Committee in Davis School District determined that it violated state law against “advocating homosexuality,” and said it would only be available to students who brought permission slips to read it.
That decision was handed down May 8.
In a letter to parents in the district dated Jan. 11, Deputy Davis Superintendent Pamela S. Park said the final step in the process was a review of the committee’s decision by the administration. She said that review has overturned the committee’s decision.
Park said the district administration considered state law and the recommendation of the district committee and determined that the book is not taught as instructional material, so it does not fall under the law against advocating homosexuality.
She said the district also felt that removing the book from the shelf wasn’t necessary to accommodate parental rights.
In the letter, Park wrote: “The district’s computerized library system is capable of maintaining individual parent requests to limit their child’s access to particular materials.”