Concerns grow over efforts to remove books from Utah schools


The Canyons School District was recently criticized for removing nine books from library shelves following a parent email complaint.

District spokesperson Jeff Haney said because the complaint came from a parent whose student had not attended the schools in question, it did not trigger a formal review. as well as to re-examine the criteria with which the books are checked.

Organizations speak out

In the days following the news of the incident, several civil rights organizations, education groups and school library associations issued statements expressing concerns that the district had violated First Amendment protections and unfairly targeted books from or about historically marginalized communities.

“What concerns us is the process,” said Rita Christensen, president of the Utah Library Association. “The librarians are really open and transparent, and we want to talk about the materials to caregivers and parents. But challenge papers are usually not removed from library shelves until the entire review process is complete.

She said if parents have concerns about a book in the library, the review process usually involves setting up a committee to read and review the book. It is usually made up of administrators, teachers, librarians, and parents, who then determine whether the book should be kept, removed, or perhaps reserved for older students.

The Utah ACLU said on Monday it was investigate the Canyons incident as an “illegal attempt to censor content”. He successfully challenged the Davis School District in 2013 after a book about a family with same-sex parents was pulled from an elementary school library. The book was eventually brought back, and the district agreed to never remove a book from circulation based solely on its LGBTQ content.

The issue of banning books from school libraries has become a growing concern in recent months, as parents and lawmakers in utah and Across the country have requested – and in some cases succeeded in – removing many books from public schools. The push often came from conservative-leaning groups and is seen by many opponents of the efforts as one of many attempts to quell the school’s efforts to create more inclusive environments for students from different backgrounds.

“We find it extremely difficult to reconcile that the disproportionate targets are directed at black, brown and LGBTQ books and authors,” said NAACP Salt Lake President Jeanetta Williams. A declaration Friday, in reference to the Canyons incident.

Book evaluation

Brooke Stephens, a Davis School District parent and member of Utah Parents United, runs a Facebook group designed to identify books with inappropriate material in Utah. She said her goal was not to ban all identified books, but to remove material with explicit pornographic content.

She pointed to one particular book that was pulled from the Canyons’ libraries, “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe, which contains images of sexual acts. It is a graphic novel about the author’s experience with gender identity and sexuality.

Stephens said some of the images in it cross a line.

“If you just look at the pictures, can’t you accept that we can bring out explicit pornography?” ” she said. “And that is, more than anything, what I want to get out.”

Davina Sauthoff, school librarian and executive director of the Utah Educational Library Media Association, said she was concerned that the whole conversation about removing books could lead districts down a slippery slope, where books are being removed more based on ideological concerns rather than the value of a book. may have to someone with a different perspective or experience.

She said school librarians have already established practices for evaluating books, such as ensuring they have literary value, notable reviews from library associations and whether they reflect the student body and interests of a school.

Referring to “Gender Queer,” Sauthoff said she had read the book and didn’t think it met the legal definition of obscene or pornographic material given its larger narrative. It’s also a book that most students probably wouldn’t come across if they weren’t looking for it.

“I think kids who would be looking for this type of content are probably looking for a safe way to understand how they feel about their own experiences and feelings,” she said. “The great thing about a library is that it automatically selects what kids can access or want to read. “

Haney said the district has expedited the assessment of its policy and is expected to present a proposal to its board of directors shortly after Thanksgiving. He said the new policy is intended to balance parents’ concerns about the material’s age-appropriateness, while respecting the First Amendment and a student’s ability to access important literature.

About Stuart M. McFarland

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