In a school district in northern Utah that last month banned Bibles from middle and elementary schools, the books will now be available again. The religious scripture was considered to be age-appropriate for all district libraries, according to representatives of the Davis School District, which serves 72,000 pupils north of Salt Lake City.
The board sided with 70 persons who submitted appeals after the Bible was prohibited last month by permitting it to be available to pupils of all school levels. The appeals committee concluded, “Based on their assessment of community standards, the appeal committee determined that The Bible has significant, serious value for minors which outweighs the violent or vulgar content it contains,” according to a judgment made by the committee and made public in school board materials.
The committee’s change of heart is the most recent development in the discussion around a Utah legislation that permits parents to object to “sensitive materials” that are made available to kids in public schools. In 2022, parents’ rights advocates successfully fought for the legislation amid a wave of new regulations that targeted the books and other resources available in libraries and schools, notably those that dealt with race, gender, and sexuality.
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Republicans have passed laws in state legislatures from Florida to Arkansas that give parents more authority to question what is offered in schools and libraries and, in some cases, expose librarians to criminal penalties for stocking books that are judged damaging to children. The American Library Association reports that the number of attempts to restrict or ban books across the United States in 2022 was the greatest in the previous 20 years, and the legislative effort is one part of a growing movement to do so.
The attempt to outlaw the Bible in Utah revived discussion about the criteria used to evaluate the content of books. The initial complaint was made by an unidentified party that opposed the criteria that conservative parent activists had pushed the state to establish as well as their clamour to have books removed from libraries.
The challenge referred to one of the main organizations engaged in curriculum disputes, saying, “Utah Parents United left off one of the most sex-ridden books around: The Bible.” You’ll undoubtedly discover that the Bible has any meaningful value for children since, under our new definition, it is pornographic. This should be a slam dunk if the books that have been banned thus far are any indicator of the way smaller transgressions.
In addition, the suit criticized a “bad faith process” and said that Parents United was “ceding our children’s education, First Amendment Rights, and library access” to the district. Advocates for increasing local control and giving parents the power to challenge books were irked by the committee’s decision to remove the Bible.
The state’s “sensitive materials” law’s Republican proponent, Ken Ivory, initially opposed the removal of the Bible and referred to the legal action as “a mockery.” Later, he said that the book was better to read at home, but in the end, he advocated for its reinstatement in the classroom and criticized the procedure that led to its removal from Davis County schools.
Ivory argued in an interview with The Associated Press earlier this month that lawmakers should change the law to require that decisions regarding the removal of books be made by elected officials at meetings open to the public, as opposed to the kind of committee that decided to do so in the Davis School District’s middle and elementary schools.
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At the Tuesday board meeting of Davis School District, members of the board chastised lawmakers for placing the blame on the majority-parent committee, which they claimed had been established and had reached its original judgment — and considered appeals — following the law. According to Brigit Gerrard, vice president of the Davis School District Board, “the magnitude of the value of the Bible as a literary work outweighs any violence or profanity which may be contained in the book.”
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