ULA/UELMA Joint Statement on Alpine School District Book Removals
The Utah Library Association (ULA) and the Utah Educational Library Media Association (UELMA) are aware of the removal of 52 books from Alpine School District. We are alarmed because it is clear from the school board meeting that the sub-committee tasked with evaluating these books did not fully read them. It is necessary for every challenged library material to be evaluated as a whole. This requirement was established in the Supreme Court case, Miller v. California (1973). Federal law requires that the “Miller Test” be followed to determine the serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value of an entire book and state law mirrors this requirement. Thus, the “Miller Test” was not followed when books were removed without due process. The Supreme Court also ruled in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969) that students’ First Amendment rights must be protected while they are in school. Illegally removing these books infringes upon Utah students’ protected First Amendment rights. This dangerous move not only opens up Utah taxpayers to costly and time consuming litigation, it also harms students.
Students can safely explore at their school library under the guidance of professional school librarians. School libraries were designated “places of voluntary inquiry” in the Supreme Court ruling Island Trees School District v. Pico (1982). Thus, students must have access to books that not only reflect their own experiences but also help them learn about others. Having access to books that reflect the many aspects of human thought and experience is more important than ever as our students grow to become leaders in our global environment. It is extremely troubling that 21 of the books that were removed have LGBTQIA+ characters and themes. Our LGBTQIA+ youth have the highest youth suicide rate in the nation. However, the Trevor Project reports that LGBTQIA+ youth are less likely to attempt suicide when they have access to LGBTQIA+ affirming spaces and information. Many of the books that were removed also deal with complex issues such as race, growing up, health, and addiction. These books might not be right for every reader but school librarians work with parents and caregivers every day to help them find appropriate materials for their children. We believe that parents and caregivers have the right to discuss reading and book selections with their own children. However, they do not have the right to make these crucial decisions for other families. We encourage all Utahns who are interested in learning more about the important role of libraries in supporting student success and a healthy democracy to read our jointly authored ebook, “Utah Libraries: Keystone of Healthy Democracy, Student Success, and Prosperous Communities” available for download at ula.org/guide.
We call on the Board of Alpine School District to immediately return all books to the shelf. If there are legitimate challenges to any books, the Board must follow their own policy and state and federal laws in evaluating each title as a whole to determine whether it has serious value for students and involving parents that are reflective of the school community in this process.