“What exactly do you find ‘inappropriate’ about my family? We’re great citizens, we pay our taxes, we go to work, we keep up our yard.”
A Utah school district recently pulled a book depicting lesbian mothers from the regular collection of its elementary school shelves. LGBT families and groups across Utah and the country are visiting the district’s school board meeting today to challenge this hurtful decision. The book was placed on shelves by district librarians to “foster inclusion” for a student at the Windridge Elementary School who happens to have two mothers. These caring librarians wanted to make their district an accepting place for the child, but a handful of representatives on the school board thought otherwise. These families are not only “appropriate,” but beautiful expressions of the strength of loving bonds between children and their parents.
Read on for an excerpt from the SLTrib.com story:
Weston Clark graduated from Woods Cross High School and went on to become a teacher at Viewmont High School in Davis County.
Now a stay-at-home dad to a toddler he adopted with his partner, Clark lives in Salt Lake City, but he remains connected to the northern suburbs through his nieces, nephews, and other relatives.
So when controversy erupted in the Davis School District this summer over limiting student access to a book about a lesbian couple raising a family, Clark couldn’t sit silently. On Tuesday, he and other families representing the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities plan to attend the Davis School Board meeting with hopes of introducing themselves after the recent decision by a district committee to place In Our Mothers’ House behind the counters at elementary school libraries.
Students can read the book by author Patricia Polacco if they bring in a permission slip signed by parents.
“When I first heard about the action, I was very hurt by it. A lot of the words that were thrown around were ‘inappropriate; it’s inappropriate to show this stuff to children,’ ” said Clark. “What exactly do you find ‘inappropriate’ about my family? We’re great citizens, we pay our taxes, we go to work, we keep up our yard.”
Davis School District spokesman Chris Williams said Monday that the families are not on the agenda to address the board.
While Clark said he had spoken with Superintendent Bryan Bowles and had been told that he and others could informally introduce themselves to the board, Williams said that there was no agreement. School officials are open to discussions, Williams said, but suggested a more private setting could be beneficial to both sides.
“To have a real conversation, a school board meeting might not be the setting either group would find workable,” Williams said.
Clark said he’d like to help the district become “more inclusive” to different types of families that exist in Utah. The conversation needs to be extended beyond school officials, he acknowledged.
“We want a discussion with the people of the district. We’re your neighbors, we’re here and we’re not inappropriate,” Clark said of LGBT families.”I don’t want my nieces and nephews or my son going through any district in the state thinking his family is inappropriate.”
When the district chose to shelve In Our Mothers House, it “essentially put LGBT families behind the counter,” Clark added.
The district’s decision followed an April 30 meeting during which a seven-member committee determined the book isn’t aligned with district curriculum standards. The committee of teachers, administrators and parents voted 6-1 to keep the book off shelves, with Bountiful High librarian Trudena Fager casting the dissenting vote.
Williams said the decision was made because state law dictates that curriculum cannot advocate homosexuality and that the book was determined to not be age-appropriate for kindergarten students.
Concerns about the book surfaced in January, after the mother of a kindergarten student at Windridge Elementary in Kaysville became upset when her child checked out the book and brought it home. The mother and her husband took their concerns to elementary school officials, according to Williams.
Williams said the book was purchased in part because a student who attended Windridge Elementary has two mothers and librarians wanted to foster inclusion.
Two groups have criticized the district’s decision to limit access to the picture book.
The Kids’ Right to Read Project, a joint effort of the New York-based National Coalition Against Censorship and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, wrote Bowles last week to voice objections about censoring children from the book. The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah also sent a similar letter to Bowles, stating that the decision to limit access to Polacco’s book is likely unconstitutional. . . .