FARMINGTON, Utah (ABC4) — Under the 2022 sensitive materials in schools law, the Davis School District has pulled the Holy Bible from elementary and middle school bookshelves, and The Book of Mormon could be next.
A district spokesperson said they are doing what they can to adhere to the law. In the wake of the decision, the bill’s sponsor is calling for an immediate age-appropriateness review of all instructional materials in Utah schools.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to follow the new state law regarding sensitive materials in our schools,” district spokesperson Chris Williams told ABC4. To date, the district has reviewed around 60 books and has 40 that are currently under review. People who have direct connections to the school district (parents, guardians, employees, etc.) may request that a book be reviewed online.
In December, a request was made to review the King James Version of the Holy Bible (the district is keeping the person’s identity private). In that request, the person wrote: “I thank the Utah Legislature and Utah Parents United for making this bad faith process so much easier and way more efficient. Now we can all ban books and you don’t even need to read them or be accurate about it. Heck, you don’t even need to see the book! Ceding our children’s education, First Amendment Rights, and library access to a white supremacist hate group like Utah Parents United seems like a wonderful idea for a school district literally under investigation for being racist.”
The request continued: “I noticed there’s a gap, though. Utah Parents United left off one of the most sex-ridden books around: The Bible. Incest, onanism, bestiality, prostitution, genital mutilation, fellatio, dildos, rape, and even infanticide. You’ll no doubt find that the Bible, under Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-1227, has ‘no serious values for minors’ because it’s pornographic by our new definition. Get this PORN out of our schools! If the books that have been banned so far are any indication for way lesser offenses, this should be a slam dunk.”
Along with the request, the person included a list with dozens of verses from the Bible that aim to prove the point.
At that time, a review committee was assigned to review the text. Chris Williams told ABC4 that it took the committee about six months. “They came back with a decision that it is appropriate for high school students.” However, they found it was not appropriate for younger students “based on vulgarity or based on violence.”
How is that decided? It’s based on the definition of indecent public displays as outlined in the law. This includes a description of illicit sex or sexual immorality.
“The committee will determine whether the book should be retained or removed, and they’ll look at the age appropriateness of that book to determine whether, just like the Bible, whether it should remain at certain levels or whether it should be removed at other levels,” Williams stated. Under district policy, book review committees are made up of at least seven people, including a district administrator, an English teacher, a librarian, and at least four parents.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ken Ivory (R-West Jordan) issued a call to action in the wake of the district’s decision:
“In a compulsory education system, parents have the right to know that the materials their children are exposed to are both age-appropriate and are not obscene or indecent.”
“This DSD determination sets an important precedent. My thanks go out to them for carefully reviewing and publicly determining the age appropriateness of instructional materials in the District. We are grateful for board members and school officials everywhere who put the safety of children over the sexualization of the public school setting. I urge Utah school leaders throughout the States to carefully and deliberately review all instructional materials, and immediately limit all materials that are not age appropriate.”
“While some spirited groups incorrectly dismiss HB374 a ‘book banning’ bill, HB374, (like the DSD determination) merely addresses age appropriateness, requiring that all instructional materials in all school settings be age appropriate and not contain obscene and indecent materials in accordance with state law. HB374 does not “ban books” and does not prevent parents from acquiring such materials in their local library or bookstore, should they choose to do so. HB374 merely defines and limits what is age appropriate for children in K-12 schools.”
“Parents have identified dozens of materials in their children’s schools that are so obscene and indecent, legislative attorneys warn they must not be read or shown in legislative meetings pursuant to state and federal obscenity laws, such materials cannot be shown on TV under FCC obscenity guidelines, and parents have been restricted from discussing at school board meetings the content such materials which their school children are actually exposed to in school…yet, such age-inappropriate materials are still on shelves and in classrooms of K-12 schools in Utah. This is a problem! Period!”
“While the KJV Bible may be a challenging read for elementary or middle school children on their own, it was the primary text to help children learn to read for hundreds of years in America. Without conceding the merits of the DSD determination, in today’s world, the Bible is certainly most effectively taught and understood in the home as a family, and in the many churches throughout our state.”
According to the school district, an appeal has already been filed. A committee, made up of board members, will review the book review and make a recommendation that will be sent to the Board of Education for the final decision on the matter.
The school district allows parents to have the ultimate say in which books their children have access to at school. They don’t have to request a review for district-wide removal. The parent or guardian may go through their child’s school and request the school restrict their child’s access to specific books. “All they have to do is submit a request,” Williams reiterated. “We’ve had less than 10 of those requests submitted to the district. We’ve honored every single one of those.”
Williams told ABC4 that a request to review The Book of Mormon was made on Friday. However, he could not say what the grounds on which the request was made. The request has not yet shown up on the district’s books for review list. No other religious texts have been challenged.