Parent complaints continue to rush in following a Utah law’s ban on allegedly “pornographic” or “indecent” content in K-12 public school libraries, chalking up a total of 280 removal requests since the policy took effect in May.
“The numbers provide a first glimpse at how the controversial law on sensitive materials in schools is playing out,” author Courtney Tanner wrote in The Salt Lake Tribune Monday.
The Republican-backed policy, which instructs school systems to remove books containing inappropriate content – written or illustrated – from libraries and classrooms, garnered criticism for alleged censorship and follows suit of a wave of conservative parental concerns over allegedly pornographic or mature-themed books found in public schools across America, but the state’s Deputy Superintendent Angela Stallings says the incidents reported across districts in Utah are exclusive to junior high and high schools.
“I read a lot in the press that we’re banning books, or we’re burning books,” state Sen. John Johnson, R-Utah, who supported the policy, said, according to The Tribune.
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“But I really feel strongly that we have an obligation to protect the innocence of children,” he added.
Eighty-four of the titles parents lashed out against were removed from their respective school libraries, while 63 others were placed behind the counter, requiring students to get parental permission to check out the books, according to Stallings, the Tribune reported.
One hundred and twenty-two other books contested by parents remain on shelves after review, with some awaiting review before districts take further action.
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“Most of the concerns — 83% — came from parents. Another 17% were from school staff or a member of a district’s school board,” Tanner wrote.
According to the outlet, a majority of the books that sparked outrage focused on hot button issues, including LGBTQ+ subjects, race and more.
Among those that were targeted for removal was the controversial graphic novel called “Gender Queer” which parents have previously condemned for containing sexually explicit images and referencing mature themes throughout, “Oryx and Crake” by Margaret Atwood and “Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel.
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Another book in question was Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye,” which has faced bans from other school districts across the U.S. as well.
“Based on Utah law, something is indecent if it includes explicit sexual arousal, stimulation, masturbation, intercourse, sodomy or fondling,”‘ Utah Legislature general counsel Michael Curtis said, according to Tanner.
“If there is a scene involving any of those acts, according to HB374, it should be immediately removed,” he added.
Republican state Rep. Ken Ivory, who sponsored the legislation to remove “pornographic” material from Utah schools, called upon outraged parents to address the issue, including Utah Parents United member Brooke Stephens, who lambasted the content as “very damaging” to students.
“You have no right to have a pornographic book on a school shelf,” Ivory said during a Wednesday committee meeting, according to Tanner.