After months of deliberations around a policy to determine which book titles are or are not appropriate for school libraries, the Utah State Board of Education voted on Tuesday to approve a policy to library equipment pattern. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)
Estimated reading time: 7-8 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY – What kinds of books are — or aren’t — allowed in Utah school libraries?
After months of deliberation around a policy to determine which book titles are or are not appropriate for school libraries, the Utah State Board of Education voted on Tuesday to approve a model policy for library materials which purports to specify “the process of identifying materials for inclusion or exclusion from use in libraries and schools.”
The policy, which provides guidance to districts and charter schools for reviewing potentially sensitive documents in schools, was created in response to HB374 and board rule R277-628.
Specific policy directions include:
- Guidelines on who can file a request for review of sensitive documents and sample request form
- Guidelines on how a review committee is formed and when it must reach a decision
- The process for appealing a decision of the review committee
- An overview of the steps the USBE will take if it is determined that a district or charter school did not follow its library policy and/or Utah law during the review process
“There’s been a lot of thought put into it, certainly. Getting input from, you know, different board members and those going to their constituents,” said Kelsey James, communications coordinator for the advice. “The big part was the board working with, obviously, the legislature, making sure that we institute HB374 … and also the attorney general’s office, making sure that we follow state and federal laws so that we can provide that advice to the (local educational agencies).”
Responsibility for the final selection of books from school libraries rests with trained library staff under the direction of the respective local education agency board using the following criteria, in accordance with policy:
- General purpose and educational significance
- Age and developmental relevance
- Punctuality and/or permanence
- Readability and accessibility for the target audience
- Artistic quality and literary style
- Reputation and importance of the author, producer and/or publisher
- Variety of format with efforts to integrate emerging technologies
- Quality and value in relation to cost and/or need
In addition, a request to review the library materials of a book can only be made by a parent of a student attending the school, a student attending the school, or a school employee.
The review process for a contested book is lengthy (30 school days if possible and no more than 60 school days), with the local education agency convening a review committee made up of administrators, of teachers, librarians and parents to determine what should be done with the disputed book.
The Review Committee will then make a final decision – by majority vote – of a revised book as follows:
- Retained: the desire to maintain access in schools to contested material for all students.
- Restricted: the decision to restrict access in a school setting to the disputed material for certain students, as determined by the review committee
- Deleted: the decision to prohibit access in schools to the disputed material for all pupils.
After more than two hours of deliberation and policy amendments, the board voted to approve the Library Materials Model Policy almost unanimously, with board member Natalie Cline voting alone in opposition.
I’m just one person on a board of 15, and the other board members present at today’s meeting decided to put their efforts and votes behind the Master Merged Model policy, which does not require (local educational agencies) to do one thing to quit porn.
–Natalie Cline, Member of the State Board of Education
In a statement posted to his Facebook page on Tuesday, Cline thanked the “nearly 500 parents and grandparents who wrote to the Council and contacted me hoping that the Council would vote for a model policy that would actually prevent pornography, under whatever form whatsoever, in their children’s schools.”
“I am only one person on a board of 15, and the other board members present at today’s meeting have decided to devote their efforts and votes to the policy of the Master Merged Model, which does not require not the LEAs to do a single thing to quit porn,” Cline said.
“Not on Banning Books”
The question of which titles are available to students through their school libraries was first called into question by the outcry from parents in November, which led to the removal of nine titles from the school district’s library shelves. from Canyons before six of the nine titles hit shelves again in February.
“I have come across many videos on social media regarding sexually explicit books in our school libraries in Utah and in school libraries across the country,” a parent from the Canyons School District wrote in an email obtained by KSL.com via a public records request. “I ask that you take the time to review the videos below for inappropriate material. There are many more, but it is mentally draining to watch and review the content of these books.”
This claim gained momentum as the conservative parent group Utah Parents United pushed for more districts to remove titles they claimed contained “pornographic or indecent material”, and lobbied for HB374, a bill that bans “sensitive materials” and requires school districts to assess objectionable content in libraries or classrooms and report it to the Utah State Board of Education and, as a last resort , to the Utah Legislature.
It’s not about banning books. This is a good process for reviewing which books are appropriate in schools to the same standard already applied to students and other materials in our existing code.
–Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross
“Right now our children are being exposed to pornography in school libraries,” said Nichole Mason, president of Utah Parents United. “They have unrestricted access to graphic pornographic novels which, really, are against the law.”
The House Education Committee in February voted 11-2 to pass HB374 and the Legislature then approved the bill, which was signed by Utah Governor Spencer Cox.
“It’s not about banning the books,” Senate sponsor Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said on the last night of the legislative session. “This is a good process for reviewing which books are appropriate in schools to the same standard already applied to students and other materials in our existing code.”
“A bad service that affects the whole community”
Utah Alliance Coalition President Frank Brannan, at a rally last month in opposition to board member Cline’s proposed policy, described his proposed policy as “extreme”, saying it “limits the diversity of library materials for students”.
“Utah’s education system belongs to all of us,” Brannan said. “Banning a book because it features a gay or transgender character or tackles tough topics that impact real teens — like drug addiction, sexual assault, and racism — is doing all students a disservice. , but worse, it alienates students who see elements of themselves and their lives in these themes and characters.”
Unfortunately, the diversity of stories, people, and themes makes some people uncomfortable, and these books are the most contested by parents. A lack of representation in books and library programs is a disservice that affects students, families, and the entire community.
–Rita Christensen, president of the Utah Library Association
Utah librarians argued that the outcry is an attempt to limit access to titles from various angles.
“Unfortunately, the diversity of stories, people and themes makes some people uncomfortable, and these books are the most contested by parents. A lack of representation in library books and programs is a disservice that affects students, families and the whole community,” said Rita Christensen. , president of the Utah Library Association.
Christensen said taking books out of circulation due to parental outcry sets a precedent “that one type of voice matters” and “that voice doesn’t have to follow the rules, and the voices of the marginalized don’t have their place on library shelves. It erodes trust in libraries (and) it erodes democracy.”
According to a board release, school districts and charter schools will now use the model policy to develop a systematic process and schedule for reviewing all school library materials using a sensitive materials rubric to to ensure compliance with Utah law.
Each district and charter school board should review and approve its own policy by Sept. 1, 2022, the deadline set out in board rule R277-628, the statement said.