Book about lesbian couple back on grade school shelves after school district, ACLU settle

Eric Owens | Editor

Under a settlement between a suburban Salt Lake City school district and the ACLU of Utah, school officials have agreed to return a book depicting the family life of a lesbian couple to library shelves at elementary schools.

The book, “In Our Mothers’ House” by Patricia Polacco, tells the story of two lesbians — Marmee and Meema — and their adopted children. “In their beautiful house, they cook dinner together, they laugh together, and they dance together. But some of the other families don’t accept them. They say they are different. How can a family have two moms and no dad?”

The agreement settles a lawsuit filed against Davis School District, which serves Davis County, Utah, reports the Deseret News. The ACLU filed the suit on behalf of Tina Weber, who has children enrolled in the district.

The dispute arose after district officials asked librarians at four school libraries to place “In Our Mothers’ House” behind the counter. The request was in response to a petition by a group of parents.

Students could still access the book and check it out, but only with their parents’ permission. As a practical matter, they also had to ask someone specifically for it.

The ACLU’s lawsuit also objected to the district’s contention that “In Our Mothers’ House” violated a Utah state sex education law forbidding schools from using educational materials that sanction or promote homosexuality

Earlier this month, Assistant Superintendent Pamela Park directed school librarians to return the controversial book to library shelves. Park told the Deseret News that the district’s library computer system allows parents to prevent their children from checking out objectionable books.

“We’re glad that the school (district) agrees that they can’t remove a book from the shelves just because some people don’t agree with its content,” John Mejia, legal director of the ACLU of Utah, told the News. “Children shouldn’t be discouraged from learning about different families or cultures by keeping books behind a counter as if there was something wrong with them.”

According to school district spokesperson Chris Williams, the settlement applies mainly to “In Our Mothers’ House.” The district’s procedure of reviewing prospective library books for offensive content won’t change, and potentially objectionable books will still be reviewed.

The settlement is not an admission of liability, Williams added, according to the News. Instead, it is a “compromise of disputed claims.”

There are currently 16 reviews of “In Our Mothers’ House” at Amazon.com. The average rating is four stars (out of five possible).

The most favorable review voted most helpful gushes about the book. “The book touches on many topics: the unconditional love of two mothers for their children, lesbian parenting, adoption, transracial [sic] families, homophobia, true family values, loss, and the comfort we find in the traditions that we create,” says Amazon reviewer Petra A. Mertens. “I have read it so many times — and still my eyes tear up at the end.”

There are two one-star reviews.

“I don’t want to have to explain to my children at an age where they cannot understand why these women are raising children together,” argues Amazon reviewer C Turtle in one of them. “They are too young to grasp the concept of marriage or love or commitment at this age. They are still trying to define their own emotions. Save these topics for an age where the children can at least put a name on what they’re feeling. If you are buying this for home use, buy away. It’s an interesting read. Note well that some topics in the book are for more mature children, though.”

The 33 comments in response to C Turtle’s review are overwhelmingly critical of C Turtle.

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