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Utah Parent Sues School District for Restricting Access to Book Depicting Lesbian Life

After the Davis School District Library removed “In Our Mothers’ House” by Patricia Polacco from the shelves, and notified students to obtain parental permission before accessing the book, a parent sued the school district challenging the constitutionality of the restrictions. On Tuesday, Tina Weber, a parent, objected to the restrictions and the ACLU filed a lawsuit on her behalf in the U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City.

The controversial book is about a lesbian couple raising a family amidst obstacles and reaching happiness. The school district took the decision after some parents complained that they had reservations about the book being indiscriminately accessible to students, as they did not favor the lifestyle depicted therein. The book, “In Our Mother’s House,” which was published in 2009, was also banned in several schools in Texas in 2011.

When the decision to restrict access to the book was taken, the school district panel voted 6-1 in favor of requiring parental permission, and circulated a letter notifying parents about the restriction. Tina Weber holds that the restriction violates the free speech rights of her children.

In a statement issued through the Utah office of ACLU, Weber said, “I was shocked when I heard that a handful of parents had made a decision about whether everyone else’s kids could have access to this book.”

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However, district officials have argued that Utah state sex education laws prohibit any advocacy of homosexuality in the school curriculum and that the curriculum extends to school district library collections.

On the other hand, the ACLU lawsuit argues that library books are not curriculum material and placing the book on library shelves does not amount to an endorsement of homosexuality. The lawsuit claims, “the district has placed a discriminatory burden on the students’ ability to access fully protected speech … Even worse, restricting access to ‘In Our Mother’s House’ and segregating it from the rest of the library collection places an unconstitutional stigma on the book and the students who wish to read it.”

Author Patricia Polacco wrote the book after seeing a child silenced at a school assembly for speaking about her same-sex parents. Polacco is an award-winning children’s book writer.

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