A Utah school district has removed 52 books from its library shelves due to parent complaints mainly concerning LGBTQ-focused material.
A spokesperson for Alpine School District tells The Salt Lake Tribune that the district has temporarily pulled the books pending further review. Another 32 books have also been flagged for investigation.
“We’ve not had a book burning or anything,” said district spokesperson David Stephenson. “But we are being proactive with the ones we’ve heard concerns about.”
Members of conservative group Utah Parents United, which advocates for parental rights in education, have lead the effort to ban the books in Alpine and other Utah school districts. The group’s curriculum director Brooke Stephens went so far as to file a police report claiming that 47 books available in Davis School District libraries violated state law because they contain “pornography.”
In response to the group’s efforts, Utah lawmakers passed H.B. 374 which requires public K–12 schools to remove books containing “pornographic or indecent material.” Alpine’s Stephenson says the district is creating a policy to review the 52 books that will be based on H.B. 374. Once the district’s policy has been established, the books will be reviewed and a decision will be made as to whether they will be returned to library shelves.
In guidelines meant to help districts craft policies for reviewing challenged books, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes (R) said that, “While there is no specific law stating that books must be left in the library when facing a challenge, leaving books on the shelves while pending review helps to ensure that schools are not engaging in prior restraint.”
NEW: 52 books by 41 authors are being removed from the libraries of Utah’s largest school district, after an internal library audit determined that they contain “sensitive material” under a new law, and “do not have literary merit.” 1/ https://t.co/j17YBq5gFL pic.twitter.com/QMkAW0Jjvh
— PEN America (@PENamerica) August 1, 2022
In a statement, PEN America director of free expression Jonathan Friedman said Alpine School District had violated the First Amendment by removing the books prior to review. The organization released a list of the 52 books, which include Maia Kobabe’s graphic novel Gender Queer, George M. Johnson’s All Boys Aren’t Blue, and Jonathan Evison’s Lawn Boy among other LGBTQ-related titles.
“Students have a right to learn about the variety of human experiences and perspectives that these books provide,” said Friedman.
In recent months, conservatives have been attempting to crack down on books about LGBTQ issues, along with books about racism. Across the country, parents and politicians have been petitioning school boards and proposing laws to severely limit the type of content kids can access at school.
In some states, laws have been proposed that would criminalize librarians and other school staff if they don’t remove certain books from the shelves. Many of the books that have been challenged have appeared on lists compiled and distributed by anti-LGBTQ hate groups like MassResistance.