Earlier this year Patricia Polacco’s picture book In Our Mothers’ House, which depicts a happy and racially mixed family headed by two lesbians, was placed under restricted access in a Davis, Utah, School District elementary library. The book was segregated behind the library counter, where students could only access it with a signed permission slip from their parents. Now, a district parent is fighting back in a lawsuit seeking to have the book restored to open stacks.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah is representing Tina Weber and her three children, who are students in Davis schools. In addition to returning the book to general circulation, the suit also seeks “a permanent injunction that would bar schools from restricting books based on an interpretation of homosexual themes and…declaratory judgments [from the court] stating the school district violated students’ First Amendment rights.”
The school district, meanwhile, apparently remains convinced it was justified in restricting the book after the parents of a Windridge Elementary kindergartner complained about it. A school-level committee initially moved the book to a different library section for students in grades 3-6, but the parents were not satisfied and started a petition to have it reviewed by a district committee instead. In April, that committee — made up of teachers, administrators, and parents — voted 6-1 to move the book behind the counter. (The lone dissenting vote was cast by Bountiful High School librarian Trudena Fager.) The district and most committee members cited a Utah law that prohibits school curricula from “advocating homosexuality.”
After hearing about the controversy, Tina Weber checked the book out from the library and read it to her 6-year-old, who was also a kindergartner at Windridge. Weber says that the book is “just a sweet story about a mixed family that learns to love each other,” and that there was no reason to conceal it from the general student population. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Windridge librarians originally purchased In Our Mothers’ House to help students understand the family of a particular classmate. The author herself reports that she wrote the book after visiting a 4th grade classroom where she witnessed an adult volunteer tell a daughter of lesbians that hers was not “a real family.”
The ACLU of Utah has the complete lawsuit here. Keep watching CBLDF for updates on this case!
Please help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work and reporting on issues such as this by making a donation or becoming a member of the CBLDF!
Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.