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Mixed reactions to Utah State Board of Education policy on library materials

Posted at 6:01 PM, Jul 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-27 20:01:44-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Board of Education (USBE) approved a library materials model policy on Tuesday.

The policy is aimed at guiding districts and charter schools in reviewing materials in schools that could be deemed sensitive.

The board's policy was created in response to HB 374. That bill, which passed earlier this year, prohibits certain sensitive instructional materials in public schools.

Some of the specific directions in the policy include:

  • Guidelines for who may file a sensitive materials review request and an example request form,
  • Guidelines for how a review committee is formed and when they must reach a determination,
  • The process for appealing a review committee decision, and
  • An outline of the steps USBE will take if it is determined a district or charter school did not follow their outlined library policy and/or Utah law during the review process.

Juliet Reynolds with Murray Equity Alliance put her four kids through the Murray School system.

"It's kind of a 'catch-22' because I feel like what they came up with is better than could have been," said Reynolds.

While Reynolds explained she is pleased the board made a decision, she does worry about the policy.

"I still feel like it is the first step to infringement on students' free speech rights, and it is one group speaking for everybody else," said Reynolds.

Frank Brannan, President of the Utah Coalition Alliance said some of the books in school libraries present tough topics.

"That makes some people feel uncomfortable reading about, but that should no way be criteria for even challenging a book," said Brannan.

The USBE outlined a long list of materials for a library collection. This includes the overall purpose and educational significance to the age and developmental appropriateness.

"The decision by the USBE to adopt a model policy was put in place when the legislature passed HB 374 which required schools to remove pornographic materials from their school libraries," said Corrinne Johnson, Public Relations Director for Utah Parents United.

Johnson said the model put forward by the USBE is a win for both parents and students.

"What we hope is the school districts will implement the best of the USBE policy and that they will continue to create policies that allow parents to review materials, appeal materials and most importantly remove materials, according to the law," said Johnson.

According to the board's policy, a review request can be made by a student who attends the school, a parent of a student that attends the school or an employee of the school.

A review committee ultimately determines the amount of time to make a thorough decision. It's something they say would take no longer than 60 school days.

"What's next? Every time so far to date it has come up more aggressive, more intolerant and I'm worried what their next move will be, will be even worse," said Reynolds.

Each district and charter school governing board should review and approve the policy by the first of September.