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Davis School District head asks for patience as Bible issue simmers

By Tim Vandenack - | Jun 9, 2023
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Davis School District Superintendent Dan Linford appears in a screengrab from a YouTube video addressing the controversy over the decision to pull the Bible from some district schools. The video was posted Thursday, June 8, 2023.
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Daniel Linford

FARMINGTON -- As the controversy over the removal of the Bible from some Davis School District schools simmers, Superintendent Dan Linford has been approached by some wondering why he hasn't intervened to make sure the religious book stays at all schools.

However, he's going to let the pending process spelled out in district policy on books in school libraries play out. He's also asking for patience from the school district community as emotions flare.

Bible backers held a protest rally this week at the Utah Capitol against the Bible decision and it also faces fierce criticism from Utah Rep. Ken Ivory, author of 2022 legislation behind the book policy that led to the action last month. The religious book has been pulled from Davis School District junior high and elementary schools, at least for now, but remains on high school book shelves.

To intervene, Linford said in a message Thursday, would be inappropriate, notwithstanding the strong sentiments and widespread attention the issue is generating and despite his personal view of the Bible. He addressed the thorny issue in a video message to district parents posted late Thursday afternoon to YouTube.

"I recognize that this community was founded on many of the principles set forth in the Bible. Many know that I am a person of faith. And I believe the Bible is a sacred text," he said in the message. "But it would be inappropriate for me to use my position as superintendent to project my own beliefs or opinions on the decision-making process, which is still underway."

It would similarly be inappropriate for him to intervene if he weren't religious or belonged to a faith not centered on the Bible, he added.

"The principles of democracy require that complicated decisions like this be made only after consideration of varied community perspectives. Our current process seeks to accomplish this through the committee and appeals processes," he said. "Just like any public entity, we have work to do to honor the perspectives and priorities of our whole community."

Ivory maintains that the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon, also focus of review in the district, should remain on public school shelves. He rejected the notion that the Bible lacks educational value in an interview with the Standard-Examiner.

A parent of a Davis High School student in Kaysville filed the initial request that the Bible's presence in school libraries face review under the district's "sensitive materials" book policy last December, referencing sexual references in its pages. The request seemed intended as an attack on Ivory's legislation, House Bill 374, and backlash to earlier Davis school officials' decisions to pull other books under the new policy.

The new policy was created last August in response to H.B. 374, which aims to root out books from libraries that have sexually explicit references and passages. So far, 101 requests for reviews of books have been put to Davis School District officials, some pending, some completed.

In response to the Bible challenge, a review committee determined on May 22 that the book didn't contain sexually explicit "sensitive materials" as defined in H.B. 374. However, the committee deemed the book contained "vulgarity or violence," as spelled out in the district policy, leading to its removal from junior high and elementary school libraries.

That May 22 decision was "almost immediately appealed" by another Davis School District parent, Linford said. The appellant wants the book reinstated at all schools.

Review committees are made up of at least seven members: three district educators and at least four district parents chosen at random. The appeal of the Bible decision will be handled by three Davis school board members, who will make a recommendation to the full seven-member board, which will make the final decision.

Linford asked for "patience and understanding" from the Davis School District community as the process unfolds. He also noted the varied factors district officials are attempting to balance.

"We are striving alongside our friends in the Legislature, parents and educators to create the best possible learning environment for our students, an environment that is free from harmful content, rich with historical and cultural literature, inclusive of varied perspectives and, most of all, respectful and considerate of every person in the diverse community where we live and serve," he said.

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