Utah school district sued over policy on 2 moms book

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah has filed a lawsuit against Davis School District, challenging a policy that limits student access to a library book about a lesbian couple raising children.

The Nov. 13 lawsuit claims it’s unconstitutional to require elementary school students to have a parent’s permission to check out In Our Mothers’ House, a picture book featuring three adopted children growing up with 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.”

District officials moved the book behind the counter in the spring, after a seven-member committee concluded the book didn’t align with district standards. Officials cited a state law that prohibits advocacy of homosexuality in Utah curriculum.

The ACLU argues the library book isn’t instructional material, and says the subject matter does not constitute advocacy of homosexuality.

“Public schools cannot remove books from the library shelves because some people disagree with the books’ viewpoint,” said John Mejia, legal director of the ACLU of Utah. “Taking a book off the shelves and hiding it behind a librarian’s desk makes the book more difficult to read, and it sends the message that there is something wrong with the book and with children who have same-sex parents.”

When contacted by the Associated Press for this story, spokesman Chris Williams said the district hadn’t been served with the lawsuit yet. He noted that in recent months, district officials had meetings with the ACLU about the book that seemed “constructive and cordial.”

“We still feel comfortable with the process we followed. We had a process in place long before the controversy came to light,” Williams said. “We still believe that at no time were parents’ rights curtailed. Parents still had the right to have their children read the book.”

The lawsuit asks the district to return the book to library shelves without the permission slip process. It also seeks $1 in damages, attorneys fees, and a ban on future restrictions based on a book’s perceived “homosexual themes” or “advocacy of homosexuality.”

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