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Lawsuit settled over book depicting same-sex couple; back on school shelves

By Benjamin Wood | Posted - Feb 1st, 2013 @ 9:49am

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FARMINGTON — After returning a book depicting a same-sex couple to elementary school library shelves, Davis School District officials have agreed to not remove "In Our Mothers' House" from libraries based on its content.

The agreement settles a lawsuit filed against the district by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Tina Weber, a mother whose children attend school in the district. But district spokesman Chris Williams said the settlement applies primarily to the book in question, and the district's policy of reviewing library books for offensive content remains in place.

The lawsuit was filed after the district removed "In Our Mothers' House" by Patricia Polacco from four school library shelves to be placed behind counters as the result of a petition by a group of parents. Students were still able to check out and access the book, but only with parental permission.

Earlier this month, Assistant Superintendent Pamela Park instructed librarians to return the book to library shelves. Park said the existing library computer system, which allows parents to block their children from accessing certain books, is sufficient to address what individual parents find objectionable.

The lawsuit also took issue with the district's argument that "In Our Mothers' House" violated the state's sex education law, which prohibits schools from using educational materials that endorse or advocate for homosexuality.

According to the ACLU of Utah, the district has agreed that library books do not fall under the sex education statute and furthermore that a depiction of a family with same-sex parents does not constitute advocacy of homosexuality.

In the terms of the settlement, provided to the Deseret News by Davis School District, the district agrees to not rely on the current wording of the sex education statute as a basis to remove or restrict access to school library books.

“We're glad that the school (district) agrees that they can't remove a book from the shelves just because some people don't agree with its content,” said John Mejia, legal director of the ACLU of Utah. “Children shouldn't be discouraged from learning about different families or cultures by keeping books behind a counter as if there was something wrong with them.”

Williams said books deemed objectionable will still be subject to review under district policy. The settlement also states that it does not represent an admission of liability, but rather is a "compromise of disputed claims."


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