SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Board of Education has approved official guidelines for how to ban books and other material from school libraries, amidst a moral panic stoked by religiously inspired activists seeking to cleanse education of “pornography.”
The policy, local radio station KSL News explained, was created in response to new state law H.B. 374, which “gives direction to school districts and charter schools for reviewing potentially sensitive materials,” after the Utah attorney general’s office “gave not one, but two memos to USBE on how that law should be interpreted.”
Making things even more unclear for library staff, Utah school districts can choose whether or not to adopt the guidelines and implement book censorship reviews.
A key point repeatedly raised by conservative school board members was that they wanted to “keep books off shelves while they’re under review,” KSL News noted.
Under the guidelines adopted yesterday, concerned individuals can fill out a form challenging books they deem “questionable.” The concerned individual, however, “has to be a parent of a student that attends the school, a student who attends the school or an employee of the school.”
Each challenge will result in the formation of a “review committee” to evaluate whether “on the whole” the work “has serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors.”
To appeal a book banned by these committees, the appellant must prove that “a district or charter school did not follow their outlined library policy and/or Utah law during the review process.”
Although USBE approved pulling books from shelves while they are under review, it did provide that such books “can still be accessed with parental permission,” prompting religious conservative activist and board member Natalie Cline to demand that challenged books be “pulled until the review process was complete.”
Cline claimed that “the way it is written, we are actually giving kids access to pornography in a restricted fashion, either by parental permission or by a digital access code. It violates H.B. 374. Our schools aren’t allowed to give students access to alcohol or drugs even with parental permission.”
For more on Utah’s new guidelines for banning books, visit the Utah State Board of Education.