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Canyons School Board to update library book banning policy

Posted at 10:50 PM, Nov 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-01 00:50:10-05

SANDY, Utah — The Canyons School District is one step closer to an updated policy on reviewing books on school library shelves, including how the district goes about potentially banning those books.

Tuesday evening's Canyons School Board review of the School Library Materials, Selection and Review policy comes after the district said it received parent complaints about several books in district high school libraries.

The district temporarily pulled the books from the library shelves, pending a review of that policy.

Those who complained said the books contain sexually explicit, pornographic material that violates Utah law. The complaints came from parents outside the high schools, and the district's current policy doesn't allow for parents of students outside a school to request a review of a book in a school.

A University of Utah education psychology associate professor previously told Fox 13 that many of the books under review include LGBTQ+ content, and have won multiple awards in the children's and young adult literature world.

READ: Canyons School District pulls books after complains over sexually explicit material

A committee made several changes to the multi-page library materials policy. Those changes were presented to the board Tuesday night.

One new line specifies that books are added to libraries based "on age appropriateness for the emotional development, ability level, learning styles and intellectual development of the students."

It also expands the list of potential criteria a book needs to meet to be added to a school library.

Another element that Canyons School District Assistant Legal Counsel Jeff Christensen said was absent from the previous policy, is the review process.

A line now states that "a parent/legal guardian of a student may request a School Level Review."

The Canyons School Board, after asking clarifying questions, indicated they like the proposed changes and want to move forward.

Multiple people came to the work session to listen to board discussion, and get a better grasp of the proposed policy changes.

Connie Slaughter, a grandmother who started a group that reads books in school libraries and takes note of any content they find concerning, said many of the books she has read are harmful and expressed that the policy changes won't do enough to keeps those books out of students' hands.

"I think they’re trying to do a good job, but I think it’s still going to leave a lot of books in our libraries that are just not making our kids better people," she said.

Jaxson Baker and Irelyn Oviatt, two seniors attending Alta High School-- one of the schools where the books were temporarily removed-- indicated that their concern isn't necessarily with a change to the review policy. It's the potential outcomes from the new review rules.

"It’s the idea that it can specifically target either certain books, or certain authors, or certain topics and genres which will affect the student's ability to read that type of literature, and to learn about it in an environment that is safe for them to do so" Oviatt said.

The two also relayed that they hope any new review policy doesn't limit representation in school library literature, or their access to it.

"I think it’s really great that the school is setting up a format in which to review and go over that content," Baker said. "I think, though, as long as that review process is not harmful or damaging to certain individuals, then we are still being healthy and safe within practicing that review."

Now that the board has signed off on the first reading of the new School Library Materials, Selection and Review policy, it heads for a second reading in two weeks, with potentially a third and final formal reading after that.

The district said that the books pulled from the shelves will stay that way until they can be reviewed under the new policy once it is passed.