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Canyons School District pulls books after complaints over 'sexually explicit' material

Posted at 11:21 AM, Nov 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-18 23:36:48-05

SANDY, Utah — The Canyons School District confirmed that it has pulled certain books from high school libraries after complaints from parents who say they contain sexually explicit material.

READ: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott decries school library books with 'pornographic material'

District officials say no decision has been made to permanently ban any of the titles in question; however, as part of the review process, all the books have been temporarily removed from library shelves at Alta, Brighton, Corner Canyon and Jordan high schools.

The review began when one parent expressed concern in an email over the books.

At a recent meeting of the Canyons Board of Education, another parent made read a sexually explicit paragraph from one of the books, asking why the title was found in the high school's library.

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Parents demanding action have no children in the schools where the books were located, giving them no standing to officially challenge the titles. As of Thursday, no challenge has been received by the district and there are no records of previous book challenges.

Books under review for their content are the following:

  • Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  • Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe
  • Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison
  • L8R G8R by Lauren Myracle
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany Jackson
  • The Opposite of Innocent by Sonya Sones
  • Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez

The district is looking to clarify policy regarding the criteria that should be used by school employees to "weed" titles from the libraries. Currently, individual school librarians are left to decide on their own which books should be included in a collection.

During his monthly media conference Thursday, Gov. Spencer Cox said he believes books should be appropriate for certain grade levels, but added, "we really should pump the brakes on the idea of getting rid of books."

"Any student of history knows that banning books never ends up well," said Cox. "It's one thing to say this isn't age appropriate, but it's another thing to say we're making your kid read this book. Sure, parents should get involved, but just having a book for kids who see things differently or are interested in that, let's just be cautious out there."

"Let's be thoughtful about it. Let's take a step back, take a deep breath and make sure we're not doing something that we'll regret."

While no challenges have formally been made, the district has previously received other complaints, some of which were sent to the Board of Education and the Utah State Office of Education.

Two requests for the entire collection of books at multiple schools in the district were previously received, as well as requests from parents to read every book in their child's school library because of content concerns.

Dr. Lauren Aimonette Liang is an education psychology associate professor at the University of Utah. She specializes in children and young adult literature.

“To not have access to a book that reflects you is just absolutely horrific,” she said.

She said a majority of the books under review by the Canyons School District include LGBTQ+ content.

“Many of the books have won multiple awards from some of the highest awards that are out there in children’s and young adult literature,” said Aimonette Liang.

Aimonette Liang said there’s been a recent trend in districts across the country “banning books.” She said those books tend to include LGBTQ+ content or books addressing racism.

She wants to emphasize books in libraries are options for students to choose and are not required reading.

“If you’re a parent, if you’re concerned about what your child is reading, you can always limit what they read. That’s up to you, that’s a personal decision, or you can choose to read it with them,” she said. “But it’s not the case you get to pick for every other child at school who may not have the access to that book once you remove it.”