Parents are normally thrilled when their children bring library books home from school to read. Instilling an early love of reading reaps great educational rewards and, until recently, parents could safely assume that books available in elementary school libraries are age- and content-appropriate. After all, isn’t that what librarians are for? But parents in the Davis School District in Farmington, Utah recently discovered—to their dismay—that this is no longer the case.
The mother of a kindergarten student was understandably shocked when her son brought home a book called “In Our Mothers’ House” that extolled the virtues of a same-sex couple and their adopted family. Concerned about the book’s inappropriate sexual message, she went to her son’s elementary school and was told that the book would be moved to the third-to-sixth grade section of the library. For reasons that should be apparent to any reasonable person, the school’s decision to provide the book to seven-year-olds rather than five-year-olds failed to satisfy her concerns. So this diligent parent began a petition drive asking the school district to review the book.
Eventually, the district did so. And every member of the review committee, except the librarian, recommended that “In Our Mothers’ House” be placed behind the library counter and be made available only after a student had obtained written permission from a parent. While we applauded this decision, the ACLU wrote a letter to the school district wrongly suggesting that placing the book behind the counter—thus allowing parents to decide whether their grade school children should be exposed to same-sex content—violated the First Amendment. Davis School District, to its credit, refused to back down. So the ACLU filed a lawsuit to force the school district to allow young children free access to the book, which is clearly a piece of same-sex propaganda, without their parents’ knowledge or permission.
The First Amendment requires no such thing. It is true that the Supreme Court has warned school districts against removing books from secondary schools’ library shelves simply because they disagree with their ideas. But the Court has also specifically upheld public schools’ discretion to remove books based on their “educational suitability.” Davis School District was well within its rights to determine that the sexual connotations of the book and the young age of the students made “In Our Mothers’ House” educationally unsuitable for elementary schoolers.
More importantly, the school district was absolutely right to require parental permission before allowing students free access to the book. The Supreme Court has, time and again, confirmed parents’ fundamental right to direct the upbringing and education of their children. Whether students are mentally and emotionally prepared to deal with topics involving human sexuality is a matter for parents—not librarians—to decide. Alliance Defending Freedom will continue to stand with the Davis School District and all those who work to ensure that children are raised by their parents, not the ACLU or its allies in public schools.
This post originally appeared here.