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

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.”