Community forum on restricted book about lesbian mothers

Posted at 5:18 PM, Nov 26, 2012
and last updated 2012-11-27 00:25:12-05

OGDEN -- Abigail Hastings-Tharp sees herself in Patricia Polacco's book, "In Our Mothers' House."

"Just because a family has two moms like mine doesn't make them big weirdos or anything," the 10-year-old girl told FOX 13. "We're just a normal family. It's not like they're any different."

She and her mothers, Michelle Hastings and Jamila Tharp, spoke at a community forum on the book restricted by the Davis County School District and subsequent lawsuit filed over it.

"It puts my family behind a shelf," said Hastings. "I think that's wrong."

Ogden OUTreach, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community group, hosted the discussion about the district's decision to restrict access to "In Our Mothers' House," a book about children raised by two mothers. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the district.

A spokesman for the Davis School District did not return phone calls seeking comment on Monday. The book was pulled from shelves after parents at Kaysville's Windridge Elementary School signed a petition with objections to it. The district has said the book violates state law on sex education, which prohibits discussion of homosexuality. Right now, children must have a parent's permission slip to read the book in school libraries.

"I think it's wrong that just a small group of parents can determine for a whole school district who can read a book," said Tharp.

The ACLU said the book is not under state sex ed law, and the decision to yank it from library shelves violates First Amendment rights. A lawyer for the organization said Monday they were suing on behalf of "all the children in the Davis County School District."

Several dozen attended Monday night's forum, asking questions about parental rights to determine what their children should see. Some decried sheltering children from the world.

"We believe that all families and all children should be loved and respected," Ogden OUTreach director Marian Edmunds said. "And if you're a child in a school and you can't read a book about your family, then you feel excluded, like your family doesn't exist."

Wanda Mae Huffaker of the Utah Librarians Association said they object to removing the book from shelves. She said since the controversy erupted, the Davis County School District's decision has generated national headlines and "kind of makes Davis County look bad."

In a videotaped statement posted on her website, "In Our Mothers' House" author Patricia Polacco, defended her book. She said many of her books advocate inclusion, respect and diversity.

Polacco said the book has been restricted in both Utah and Texas. The author said she understood why some parents would choose not to read her book to their children, but said they did not have the right to decide for others what they should read.

"If I felt something is harmful to my child, I have every right to prevent them from doing it. But I don't believe I have the right to go into a school where my children are attending, or challenge a school district and force them to remove something I think is harmful in some
way," Polacco said.

Video: Author Patricia Polacco's response to book being restricted

Listen to a reading of "In Our Mothers' House"