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KAYSVILLE — Following a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Davis School District has returned a controversial book about same-sex parents to school library shelves.
"In Our Mothers' House" by Patricia Polacco was removed from shelves and placed behind library counters after a group of parents petitioned the district to review the book's content. Parental permission was then required for a student to check out the book.
In a letter dated Jan. 11 and released by the ACLU of Utah, Davis School District Assistant Superintendent Pamela Park states said the decision to remove "In Our Mothers' House" was made without her final review, contrary to district policy. She also states that the district can preserve a parent's right to direct the upbringing of their children in a way that is less restrictive to other parents and students.
The letter instructs librarians to return the book to library shelves and in place of requiring parent permission to access the book, parents who object to the book may contact librarians and place a restriction on their children.
"The district's computerized library system is capable of maintaining individual parent requests to limit their child's access to particular materials," the letter from Park states. "With this system, parents may ensure that their child does not check out material which a parent has determined is not appropriate for their own child."
John Mejia, legal director for the ACLU of Utah, said the lawsuit against the district is still pending. While the book has been returned to library shelves, the lawsuit also asks the court to clarify whether the state's sex education law banning advocacy of homosexuality can be applied to library books — a claim the district cited as part of its decision to remove the book.
He said the ACLU also hopes to reach an agreement with the district to ensure that other books are not improperly restricted in the future.
"We were glad that they reconsidered their decision," Mejia said. "We are hopeful that a settlement will be possible."
The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of Tina Weber, a mother whose children attend one of the schools where the book was removed. In a prepared statement, Weber responded to the district's reversal by saying she was glad the district understands the mistake it made.
"A small group of people shouldn’t be able to impose their personal values on everyone else by taking away access to books they might disagree with," she said. "It’s not their job to decide what my kids can read — that’s my job as a parent."
District spokesman Chris Williams said that out of the district's 86 schools, four elementary schools own a copy of the book and in those schools it has been returned to library shelves.
He also confirmed that students will no longer be required to secure their parent's permission to access the book, but parents who wish to restrict their children from reading "In Our Mothers' House," or other books they find objectionable, are able to do so.
"They are still in the driver's seat," he said.