The American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit against a Utah school district for its decision to remove a picture book featuring lesbian mothers from the shelves of elementary school libraries.
Students in the Davis School District can only read the book, In Our Mothers' House by Patricia Polacco, if they have a signed permission slip from their parents, reports the Salt Lake Tribune.
Tina Weber, a mother of three children in Davis schools, is thus far the only named plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit brought against Davis by the ACLU. The lawsuit, which a Davis spokesman said the district has not yet been served, alleges that by effectively censoring the book, the school district is infringing upon students' First Amendment rights.
"As a parent, I believe it's my role to help [my children] understand certain issues and explain to them our particular values and stances on things," Weber told the Tribune. "I don't believe it's for anybody else to tell me how to raise my family. I would just hope to see the book get back on the shelf so all children have access to it." Weber described In Our Mothers' House as "just a sweet story about a mixed family that learns to love each other."
"Students have the right to access books in their library free from the administration's discrimination based on the viewpoint of those books," said John Mejia, legal director for the ACLU of Utah. "Ultimately, we feel this is a question of interpreting the law. The school district has claimed that … there's a Utah statute that schools can't advocate homosexuality under the health curriculum. The school has taken a public position that the libraries are an extension of the curriculum, and therefore this law would apply to make this book run afoul of the law. We question that interpretation of the law."
The book has been the subject of controversy since January, when a parent of a Davis kindergartner questioned the age-approriateness of the picture book. That parent gathered 25 signatures on a petition to remove the book from library shelves, and on April 30 a seven-member district committee decided the book didn't meet curriculum standards and ordered the book placed behind the library's desk, only available upon request, with explicit parental permission.
Davis spokesman David Williams told the Tribune he was confident in the district's decision to curtail the book's availability, but also noted that the book was added to the library in an effort to foster inclusion, since at least one student in a Davis school has lesbian mothers.
The lawsuit asks the court to order that copies of the book be returned to library shelves, seeks a permanent injunction that would bar schools from restricting books based on a perceived interpretation of homosexuality, and issue a declaratory judgement that Davis violated students' First Amendment rights by limiting access to the book and that the district incorrectly cited the Utah statute banning discussion of homosexuality from school curricula, reports the Tribune. The suit also seeks a whopping $1 in damages to be paid to the plaintiffs by the district.