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The school board gets it right on library book
Feb 01, 2013 | 2153 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print

The opinions stated in this article are solely those of the author and not of The Davis Clipper.


The Davis School District finally got it right. However, it took eight months Р and the likely prospect of losing a lawsuit to the American Civil Liberties Union.

When a handful of concerned parents objected to a library book (“In Our Mothers’ House”) about children growing up in a home led by two lesbians, the school district hastily reacted last year by removing the book from the shelves of four school libraries. The picture book didn’t talk about sex or tout the homosexual lifestyle; it simply examined growing up in a “different” family.

The school district received national attention and added fuel to the fire that Utah is a compound of small-minded Puritans.

This month, the district did a mea culpa. Instead of requiring parents to sign a release so their children could check out the book, parents will have to alert the district if they don’t want their son or daughter to see the book. Chalk up a victory for sanity.

Elementary children read books with all kinds of truly “disturbing” themes and incidents. In the popular “A Wrinkle in Time,” children read of a disembodied brain and a “dark thing” that controls the world. In the Newberry Award-winning “The Giver,” children read of a utopian society focused on mind and behavior control with those in power euthanizing old people, less-than-perfect infants and rule-breakers. In the equally acclaimed “Island of the Blue Dolphins,” a young girl is abandoned on an island to fend for herself.

Many thousands of Utah children read these books without evidence of later personality disorders, just as thousands of high school students read “The Great Gatsby” and don’t try making a gin fizz or breaking into liquor stores. “In Our Mothers’ House” doesn’t advocate homosexuality any more than Hemingway novels advocate binge drinking.

Following last month’s change in policy, the most engaging statement came from Tina Weber, a mother who sued the district to keep the book available for children.

“A small group of people shouldn’t be able to impose their personal values on everyone else by taking away access to a book they might disagree with,” she said. “It’s not their job to decide what my kids can read Р that’s my job as a parent.”

This mother understands that censorship is a slippery slope. 

As comedian Bill Cosby once remarked, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” In trying to please “concerned parent,” the school district was derelict in its duty in making libraries an open forum for exploration and knowledge Р even knowledge that might make someone uncomfortable. 

As for Tina Weber, I would suggest that she be named honorary school board member for her succinct support of freedom, learning and literacy. It’s too bad the school district had to be sued before doing the right thing.

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