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Utah library leaders fighting back against book banning push

Posted at 5:44 PM, Dec 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-16 12:19:28-05

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The fight over banning books in Utah schools is intensifying.

So far, there have been cases where books have been pulled from shelves in the Canyons School District.

Earlier this year, the Murray School District suspended a book program that aimed to give young students a chance to learn about inclusion in diversity. Officials said it was in response to parents' complaints about a book read in class about a transgender boy: Call Me Max.

"This year, we’ve seen an attack on LGBTQIA+ literature in schools," said Amanda Darrow, the Director of Youth, Family & Education at The Utah Pride Center.

The Utah Library Advocates (ULA), which is made up of four groups, is trying to get the message out, that no books should be banned from school libraries.

"Not only do librarians face the challenge of ensuring that all students are able to see a reflection of themselves in the books they read, but they are also charged with the responsibility of helping explore worlds outside of their own and develop empathy for others," said Davina Sauthoff, the Executive Director of the Utah Education Library Media Association.

To try to educate parents and critics, The ULA made a digital guide.

It gives suggestions on how parents and caregivers can talk to kids about difficult topics raised in certain books.

Jeanetta Williams, the President of the Salt Lake Chapter of the NAACP said, "We need to have conversations about race, sexuality, gender, mental illness, and other taboo topics, that are too often the reason that books are challenged or banned."

When we reached out to an opposing group for comment, Utah Parents United sent Fox 13 a statement.

In response to the Utah Library Advocates' position on books being challenged, it reads in part:

"Please stop protecting pornography and material harmful to minors in public schools." - Corrine Johnson, Utah Parents United

They then went on to quote Utah Code about what harmful to minors means.

Advocates hope the digital guide can help put the minds of parents and critics at ease by eliminating fear about the damage that books do and sparking conversations about what is actually in them.

Heidi Matthews, the President of the Utah Education Association said, "At the highest level of stringency is the removal of materials and books from the library, as it should be as this impacts not just your child’s choices and options and rights, but everyone else’s too."

You can find the ULA's guide in full here.