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Alpine School District passes ‘pilot’ policy to evaluate school materials

By Ashtyn Asay - | Aug 12, 2022

Isaac Hale, Daily Herald file photo

The Alpine School District Board of Education holds a meeting Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at the Alpine School District Offices in American Fork.

The Alpine School District Board of Education has approved a pilot policy in order to comply with a new Utah law prohibiting “sensitive” instructional materials in public schools.

Policy 6161, which will be used by the district to evaluate school materials, was approved at the ASD board meeting held Tuesday, with the intention that the policy will be amended before the Oct. 1 deadline set by House Bill 374. The deadline for local education agencies to evaluate their respective school libraries and remove materials deemed inappropriate was recently extended from Sept. 1.

This decision comes after ASD pulled 52 books from library shelves last week in response to parent complaints and flagged an additional 32 books for further review.

According to a statement from ASD, the school district never removed the 52 books in question from schools and will remain available to students with restricted access until the final policy is approved.

“The Alpine Board of Education approved Policy 6161 as a ‘pilot’ on Tuesday, August 9, 2022, to be in alignment with Utah Law under HB374,” the statement reads. “While the books in question were never removed from school property, if a school has any of those titles, the books will be temporarily restricted from access to students without parental permission until the process outlined in the approved policy is completed. According to the policy, committee-reviewed books will receive a designation of retained, restricted, or removed.”

This decision has received national attention from media outlets as well as PEN America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection and celebration of free speech.

PEN America has released multiple statements on ASD’s attempts to align with HB 374. In the most recent statement, posted to its website Thursday, the organization called the board’s reversal of its decision “an important step in recognizing students’ speech rights.”

“While this still constitutes a barrier to the books, and questions remain about how these particular books were evaluated for this restriction, the Board has taken a step in the right direction, recognizing students’ rights and the need to follow considered processes,” Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education programs at PEN America, said in a press release.

Thursday’s statement from PEN America noted that 21 of the 52 titles singled out for removal featured LGBTQ+ characters or themes.

“I want to acknowledge that, particularly with the 52 books that are on the list that 37% of them dealt with LGBTQ issues. A significant portion of them also dealt with our BIPOC community,” board member Julie King said. “I am concerned that we can have a bias because we are uncomfortable with queer sexuality. I am glad that they are going back through the review process and we are correcting that.”

According to PEN America, the 52 books restricted by ASD are:

  • “Twisted” by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • “The Haters” by Jesse Andrews
  • “Damsel” by Elana K. Arnold
  • “Red Hood” by Elana K. Arnold
  • “What Girls Are Made Of” by Elana K. Arnold
  • “My Friend Dahmer” by Derf Backderf
  • “Queer: The Ultimate LGBTQ Guide for Teens” by Kathy Belge and Mark Bieschke
  • “The Sin-Eater’s Confession” by Ilsa J. Bick
  • “Forever…” by Judy Blume
  • “Flamer” by Mike Curato
  • “This Book Is Gay” by Juno Dawson
  • “The Girl Who Fell from the Sky” by Heidi W. Durrow
  • “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison
  • “The Carnival at Bray” by Jessie Ann Foley
  • “Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition” by Katie Rain Hill
  • “Crank” by Ellen Hopkins
  • “Fallout” by Ellen Hopkins
  • “Impulse” by Ellen Hopkins
  • “People Kill People” by Ellen Hopkins
  • “Tilt” by Ellen Hopkins
  • “We Are the Ants” by Shaun David Hutchinson
  • “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson
  • “Almost Perfect” by Brian Katcher
  • “Milk and Honey” by Rupi Kaur
  • “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe
  • “A Lesson in Vengeance” by Victoria Lee
  • “Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan
  • “Real Live Boyfriends: Yes. Boyfriends, Plural. If My Life Weren’t Complicated, I Wouldn’t Be Ruby Oliver” by E. lockhart
  • “Daughters Unto Devils” by Amy Lukavics
  • “A Court of Frost and Starlight” by Sarah J. Maas
  • “A Court of Mist and Fury” by Sarah J. Maas
  • “A Court of Silver Flames” by Sarah J. Maas
  • “A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J. Maas
  • “A Court of Wings and Ruin” by Sarah J. Maas
  • “The Truth About Alice: A Novel” by Jennifer Mathieu
  • “Fade” by Lisa McMann
  • “Shine” by Lauren Myracle
  • “ttfn” by Lauren Myracle
  • “ttyl” by Lauren Myracle
  • “Breathless” by Jennifer Niven
  • “Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe” by Preston Norton
  • “Out of Darkness” by Pérez, Ashley Hope
  • “grl2grl: Short Fictions” by Julie Anne Peters Nineteen
  • “Minutes” by Jodi Picoult
  • “The Nowhere Girls” by Amy Reed
  • “Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging” by Louise Rennison
  • “The Midnight Lie” by Marie Rutkoski
  • “Push” by Sapphire
  • “Jesus Land: A Memoir” by Julia Scheeres
  • “SEX: If You’re Scared of the Truth Don’t Read This!” by Carl Sommer
  • “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein
  • “This One Summer” by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

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