Utah State School Board weighs what to do with library books deemed indecent, pornographic

The Utah State Board of Education has considered guidance over an administrative rule to implement Utah's updated "sensitive materials" law.

The Utah State Board of Education has considered guidance over an administrative rule to implement Utah's updated "sensitive materials" law. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Board of Education briefly considered guidance to an administrative rule to implement Utah's updated "sensitive materials" law that said books and other materials selected for removal from school libraries be "shredded" or "burned."

After debate over the language, with some board members remarking that "destroying" could be construed as book burning, the board adopted language that calls for the materials to be "legally disposed of."

Board member Brent Strate sought an amendment to the document that said, "sensitive materials removed from student access shall be destroyed," to replace language that said it may not be sold or distributed to a minor.

"So I don't care if it's shredded, burned, it has to be destroyed one way or another. They cannot be able to read it because we cannot also not give it to those who have turned 18 their senior year," he said.

Board member Emily Green said that while some might make light of the proposed amendment, "the work that we're doing here today falls into a level of seriousness that beyond the puns of book burning and book banning, we are in essence protecting children from being distributed sexually explicit materials funded under the taxpayer dollar through our public education system, K-12."

She continued, "I recognize that this has been a very heavy lift. It's very controversial, but the work here that we do today, I believe, is setting right a wrong that has been funneled through our public education system."

Strate said he appreciated "the attitude of seriousness" toward his proposed amendment.

"I will tell you that I am absolutely serious, that if this material is that way, I'm not making any references to book burning. I just want it in a situation where it's not available and it's gone and it's not showing up with anyone else. So yeah, so give me the same grace that that I gave you in regards to my intent," he said.

Board member Carol Lear said if she appeared "jovial" it was "because I find it interesting that not all parents are respected. This is about parents of some students, but not parents of all students, and I find it interesting and rather contradictory, that not all parents' rights are respected here because I, frankly, trust my children and grandchildren. I think they can choose well," she said.

"I don't find it amusing that we're going to put, we're going to ban books, and we're going to burn books and we're going to cart them to dump beyond the dumpster at the school, because kids are so desperate to get a hold of information that they apparently aren't getting clearly from parents."

Lear continued, "So I, I think my attitude is justified. I appreciate other people's gravity, but I have a hard time taking this seriously. Frankly, I hope this is so bad that someone sues (over) the rule and the law."

Board member Natalie Cline said placing removed materials in school dumpsters would result in a "feeding frenzy" once students realize that is where they are discarded.

Cline said she was grateful for Strate's motion, suggesting that those who are opposed "have not dealt with a close family member that has been taught well and yet still succumbs to these kind of addictions, behavioral addictions that override their sense of right and wrong especially when they are young and exposed to things prematurely that sexualize them."

The board, which met June 7, voted to amend board rule R277-628, Sensitive Materials, to align its guidance on HB29, Sensitive Material Review Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan.

The legislation, passed earlier this year, gives the state school board the option of holding a hearing to overturn statewide removal of books or other materials in school libraries three school districts or two school districts and five charter schools have deemed to be pornographic or indecent under state law.

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