Last June, Utah’s Davis County School District caved to the complaints of 25 parents and removed the book In Our Mothers’ House by Patricia Polacco from general circulation in the elementary school library. The book, which features a family with two moms, was not outright banished, but was held behind the librarian’s desk such that students could not access it without first obtaining permission from their parents. The ACLU filed suit in November, and now the school has come to its senses and returned the book to general circulation. In a letter explaining the decision, the district’s assistant superintendent, Pamela Park, explains that a committee actually had positive things to say about In Our Mothers’ House, including that it will help prevent bullying:
I have considered the written summary and recommendations of the District Reconsideration Committee. I agree with and support the Committee’s conclusions regarding the book as follows:
- “Removing the book completely is not a good option.”
- “We all know many non-traditional families” with students attending our schools.
- “It could help those children in same sex families see their family in a book.”
- “[T]his book teaches acceptance and tolerance.”
- “The book could help prevent bullying of kids from same sex families.”
- “It could be used by a family to discuss the issues . . .”
Parents can still restrict their children from checking out certain books, but that policy would not prevent students from reading the book in the library.
Another wrinkle in this situation is that Utah’s sex education law prevents the use of instructional materials that include “the advocacy of homosexuality.” However, the ACLU argued and the school agreed that library books not incorporated into a curriculum are not covered by the law.
The parents who complained about Polacco’s book may now have to deal with questions about same-sex families. It’s quite likely, however, that they may have already faced such questions given the existence of same-sex families in the school their kids attend. Now, those kids have one extra resource for understanding the diversity that surrounds them.