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Davis School District reverses Bible decision, book can stay in all schools

By Tim Vandenack - | Jun 20, 2023

Ryan Comer, Standard-Examiner

A photo of the King James version of the Bible.

FARMINGTON — The Bible can stay in all Davis School District libraries after all.

The Davis school board on Tuesday reversed the controversial May 22 decision of a committee that deemed the book should be pulled from junior high and elementary schools — though retained at high schools — due to “vulgarity or violence” in its pages.

The district received 70 appeals in the wake of the May 22 decision asking that the determination be reconsidered, and a review committee made up of three Davis School District school board members reversed course. The three recommended that the King James version of the Bible be kept in all libraries and the full seven-member school board took up the issue Tuesday, unanimously accepting the recommendation.

“Based on their assessment of community standards, the appeal committee determined that The Bible has significant, serious value for minors which outweighs the violent or vulgar content it contains,” reads a summary of the review committee’s decision. “Therefore, the appeal committee considers The Bible to be age appropriate and recommends that it be retained in school libraries at all levels (elementary, junior high, and high school).”

Some of the school board members defended the text in the Bible in making their decision.

“Clearly the Bible has literary and artistic value for minors,” Kristen Hogan, one of the seven board members, said at Tuesday’s meeting. “Personally, I believe it is a sacred text.”

Brigit Gerrard, also a board member, echoed that.

“It is my firm opinion that the King James version of the Bible is a historically significant, very important book of scripture with deep spiritual meaning for many people,” she said. “The magnitude of the value of the Bible as a literary work outweighs any violence or profanity which may be contained in the book.”

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, citing sexual references in its pages. The request seemed intended as an attack on 2022 state legislation that led to the policy, House Bill 374, and backlash to earlier Davis school officials’ decisions to pull other books under the new policy.

In response to the Bible challenge, the initial committee determined 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’s own policy, leading to its removal from junior high and elementary school libraries.

The decision led to strong backlash from Bible defenders and other critics, and school officials on Tuesday pushed back against the fierce response. Some state lawmakers, including H.B. 374 sponsor Rep. Ken Ivory, were among the vocal critics.

“I’m sorry that those who are in top leadership positions treated us this way. I thought we were working together,” said Derek Lamb, a board member. “They will all get a call from me.”

Gerrard defended the school district community. “Davis School District is full of amazing, dedicated, caring, good people, all working for the benefit of children,” she said.

The process followed in reviewing the Bible, noted Assistant Superintendent Logan Toone, was based on policy that stemmed from state law. Ivory had called the initial body that reviewed the Bible a “rogue committee.”

School officials made a “sincere effort to adhere to the state law,” Toone said.

A district statement issued after Tuesday’s decision echoed that. “The district has always acted with intent to uphold the law and maintain school libraries free from harmful material,” it reads.

Per the Davis School District book policy, challenges to books first face review by a committee of at least seven members — three district educators and at least four district parents chosen at random. Review committee decisions can be appealed, and 70 people challenged the ruling, according to the online district database of book challenges, leading to the subsequent review by the three school board members.

Toone said around eight or so Bibles had been removed from a handful of junior high and elementary schools due to the initial Bible determination. They will now be placed back on library shelves in response to Tuesday’s action.

The Book of Mormon, holy scripture to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, faces a challenge in the Davis School District, and the review of the book continues. The request that it be removed from school libraries stems from violence in its pages.

In the wake of the intense flap, the district’s book policy will “likely require some revisions,” reads the district statement. But it went on, defending the process in place.

“The committee-based process is thoughtful, methodical, respectful of varying perspectives, and compliant with Utah law. It allows for appeals to be considered when a committee’s decision seems to be at odds with community values. The process takes time and it isn’t perfect, but it is working,” reads the statement.

More than 100 books have faced challenges within the Davis School District under its new book policy. Some have been pulled from library shelves, others have remained.


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