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Utah school pulls picture book about lesbian parents from shelves

June 04, 2012|By John M. Glionna

A picture book aimed at pre-reading children has raised the ire of two dozen parents of students at a Utah elementary school who say that its subject matter is decidely adult: the story of a lesbian couple raising children.

The book, “In Our Mother’s House” by Patricia Polacco, was removed from the library shelves at Windridge Elementary School near Salt Lake City after parents raised objections about the suitability of the book’s social message.

The book is now kept behind the librarian’s counter and can only be checked out once a student presents a permission slip from a parent, said district spokesman Chris Williams.

The brouhaha started in January, when the mother of a kindergarten student became upset after her child checked out the book and brought it home. The mother and her husband alerted elementary school officials, Williams said.

“She didn’t think it was appropriate for her child or any other child in the elementary school,” Williams told the Los Angeles Times.

School district officials decided to make the book accessible only to older children, but the mother objected to that compromise. “She wasn’t happy with that decision,” Williams said. “She came back to the district with a petition signed by 25 parents to remove the book.

A seven-member committee determined that the book didn’t align with district curriculum standards. The committee, composed of teachers, administrators and parents, voted to place the book in a special check-out area.

Williams said the book – the cover shows two women holding three children of different ethnicities – was originally purchased in part because a student who attended Windridge elementary has two mothers and librarians wanted to foster inclusion.

According to a website for the book, Polacco’s book encourages people to try to understand people who aren’t like them.

"Marmee, Meema, and the kids are just like any other family on the block. In their beautiful house, they cook dinner together, they laugh together, and they dance together. But some of the other families don’t accept them. They say they are different. How can a family have two moms and no dad?" a description of the book states. " But Marmee and Meema’s house is full of love. And they teach their children that different doesn’t mean wrong. And no matter how many moms or dads they have, they are everything a family is meant to be."

Rights activists blasted the decision to remove the book from library shelves.

“Parents have and should take seriously the importance of speaking to their children about their families, their history and their deeply held personal values. But as a community, we have a responsibility to hold open a space for children to accurately understand families, history and personal values as they actually exist in our diverse community," Brandie Balken, executive director of Equality Utah, told the Salt Lake Tribune.

Years ago, parents complained about violence in a 1971 book titled "Grendel," by John Gardner. John Steinbeck’s "Of Mice and Men," along with J. K. Rowling’s "Harry Potter" series and Stephanie Meyer’s "Twilight" series, have also brought parental backlash. But none of those books were never removed from shelves, Williams said.

“Parents do have opportunity approach the school and meet with officials and say ‘I have objection to this book’ and that’s what this parent did,” he said.


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