UAC IN THE NEWS
Board approves policy to determine which books are appropriate for Utah school libraries
Jul 26, 2022
SALT LAKE CITY — What kinds of books are — or aren't — allowed in Utah school libraries?
After months of deliberation surrounding a policy to determine what book titles are or aren't appropriate for school libraries, the Utah State Board of Education on Tuesday voted to approve a library materials model policy that aims to specify "the process for identifying materials to be included or disqualified from use in libraries and schools."
The policy, which provides guidance to districts and charter schools for reviewing possibly sensitive materials in schools, was created in response to HB374 and board rule R277-628.
After over two hours of deliberation and amendments to the policy, the board voted to approve the library materials model policy nearly unanimously with board member Natalie Cline casting the lone vote in opposition.
This contention picked up more steam as the conservative parent group Utah Parents United pushed more districts to remove titles that they said contained "pornographic or indecent material," and lobbied in support of HB374, a bill that bans "sensitive materials" and requires school districts to evaluate objectionable content in libraries or classrooms and report it to the Utah State Board of Education and, ultimately, the Utah Legislature.
Utah Alliance Coalition President Frank Brannan, at a rally last month in opposition to the policy proposed by board member Cline, described her proposed policy as "extreme," saying it "limits the diversity of library materials for students."
"Utah's educational system belongs to all of us," Brannan said. "Banning a book because it features a gay or transgender character or touches on difficult topics that impact real teens — like drug abuse, sexual assault and racism — does a disservice to all students, but worse, it alienates students who see elements of themselves and their lives in those themes and characters."
Utah State Board of Education still trying to thread the needle on book ban law guidance
Jul 1, 2022
Members of the Utah State Board of Education continue to work out what they hope will be a model policy for how schools resolve concerns some parents have about ‘inappropriate books.’
Despite months of work, so far, and a nearly two-hour debate Thursday, they have yet to reach a consensus on how to move forward.
It’s been a confusing and contentious issue for public education stakeholders nationwide and in Utah, stemming from a massive spike in requests to remove books from school libraries around the country and a recent state law banning “sensitive materials” in schools.
While the Utah law defines sensitive materials as ‘pornographic’ or harmful to minors with no literary or artistic value, school librarians have been unsure about how to enforce it. Even the initial legal guidance from the Attorney General’s office conflicted with later advice from the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel, though the AG has since clarified its directions.
Board members are considering several policy variations. Each lays out how parents, students or members of a school community can flag a book or other school material they find objectionable, triggering a review from a panel, public hearings and an appeal process.
The policies differ, however, in how strict they are, and whether they would simply serve as a model for districts and charter schools to adopt or as specific rules schools would have to follow.
Before Thursday’s meeting, a small group of parents and community advocates gathered outside the state office to urge board members to ensure the process is reasonable and fair to diverse groups of students.
Juliet Reynolds, a parent of four kids who attended the Murray District and a founder of the Murray Equity Alliance, said she showed up in order to fight back against the “intolerance” she’s seen in book challenges.
Community members rally against proposed Utah school library book review policy
Jun 30, 2022
Juliet Reynolds is the mother of kids who are part of the LGBTQ community and said that she fears removing certain book titles from school libraries could lead to increased suicide rates.
Reynolds, founder of the Murray Equity Alliance, said that for some LGBTQ youth, seeing their experiences represented through literature can be the difference between "life and death."
"Some kids are closeted because they've got parents that are intolerant or that just don't understand, and they feel really alone and isolated," Reynolds said, adding that the same situation applies to stories from or about any diverse perspectives. "One story is never a good idea," she said.
This is just part of why Reynolds joined other activists on Thursday outside of the Utah State Board of Education Building to push the board not to adopt a policy that would restrict the availability of books deemed explicit from school libraries.
It's a policy that Utah Alliance Coalition President Frank Brannon described as "extreme," saying it "limits the diversity of library materials for students."
"Utah's educational system belongs to all of us," Brannon said. "Banning a book because it features a gay or transgender character or touches on difficult topics that impact real teens — like drug abuse, sexual assault and racism — does a disservice to all students, but worse, it alienates students who see elements of themselves and their lives in those themes and characters."
Kelly Whited Jones is an educator in the Davis School District who said that last year the district saw 38 books that were challenged — and all of them remained on the shelves.
As an educator, Jones said that she believes society has to be careful about "what we label as pornography."
Utahns gather at Capitol on Mother’s Day in support of abortion rights
May 9, 2022
Three sisters approached the Utah Capitol on Sunday cloaked in red hooded robes and little white bonnets meant to help shield their faces. Each sister held a sign that read ‘Of Alito’ ‘Of Thomas’ ‘Of Gorsuch,’ as chants from other pro-choice demonstrators echoed around them.
They were three of the roughly 100 people marching at the Capitol on Mother’s Day in support of women’s bodily autonomy. Many marched around the perimeter of the Capitol, holding signs and shouting chants like ‘Hey, hey, ho, ho the patriarchy has got to go.’
Demonstrators march at Utah State Capitol in support of abortion rights
May 8, 2022
The leak of a draft earlier this week suggesting Roe v. Wade could be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court brought dozens of demonstrators to the Utah State Capitol on Sunday.
A Mother's Day march was organized by the Utah Alliance Coalition. The coalition's co-founder, Eleanor Sundwall, said this is the first time they've put on an event like this.