Educators urge parents not to call police over ‘harmful’ books in school libraries

Nov 19, 2021, 7:37 PM
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SALT LAKE COUNTY — A well-known parents group is reportedly telling members they should call police if “harmful” books are found in school libraries.  Some educators are calling this a horrible idea, saying it’s the wrong way to complain about questionable material.

Officials with Utah Parents United are clarifying their stance on calling police over books.  They tell KSL this advice doesn’t apply to every book that a parent might be offended by, but they believe some books have already caused harm to children.  Board member Rachel Stone said some books may be grooming kids by normalizing sexual relationships between adults and minors, and their group doesn’t believe those books should be part of a school library.

One member reported their 10th grader became depressed and struggled with suicidal thoughts after reading a book he had to report on, Stone said.

“The parents went through it and found child incest, child rape and sexual acts that were being discussed in this book that was required reading,” Stone said.

She also said parents should follow the proper procedure to complain about potentially offensive books, and people should call the schools before calling officers.  However, if the complaint is ignored, Stone said parents are within their rights to call police.

“People are entitled to call and report something that they feel could be a harm to their child or is a harm to their child,” Stone said.

Educators say “call the principal, not police”

Educators in Salt Lake County said even if parents have the right to call police, it’s still a bad idea when it comes to reporting books.  Granite School District Spokesman Ben Horsley said their district, and most others, already have a system in place to allow parents to report offensive materials and have the books “reconsidered.”  There have been instances when offensive materials “slipped through the cracks,” and the books were either pulled from the shelves or moved to a section for older kids after being reviewed, he said.

“That robust policy and process has been utilized several times a year,” Horsley said.

However, he said if a parent is going to raise concerns over a book, they will be asked if they’ve actually read it. 

“Certainly, if you’re going to have concerns about material, we hope that you have read it and understand your concerns fully, as opposed to just sharing something off of social media,” Horsley said.

Utah Library Association President Rita Christensen said not every parent will read the material they complain about.

 “There are parents and parent groups that are evaluating books by a single word, sentences, paragraphs or pages, and, there may be, even, ideologies [they find offensive,]” she said.

Christensen said pulling books from library shelves is akin to silencing differing opinions, in many cases.  She said there are resources that can help librarians determine how relevant the book is, how well it’s written and what age groups the books are appropriate for. 

“There are professional magazines and book review journals that help librarians,” according to Christensen.

She also acknowledges there are times when books are deemed as inappropriate for children after further review, and they’re moved to the adult or young adult sections of the library.


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Educators urge parents not to call police over ‘harmful’ books in school libraries