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ASD adopts new instructional materials and book challenge policy, board calls state law on sensitive material too strict

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The Alpine School District (ASD) Board of Education (BOE) met on Tuesday to discuss crafting the district’s policy regarding pornography and sensitive materials in school libraries and instructional curricula. Despite the intention of only discussing the policy, the board decided to move forward and approve the policy under a “pilot” or trial period.

With the State legislature’s passage of H.B 374 earlier this year, school districts must remove “pornographic and indecent material” from schools and their respective libraries. The bill required districts to remove materials deemed in violation by September 1, but that deadline has been extended to October 1. 

The BOE decided to move forward with the current policy draft so they could put the process in motion. Now the board will determine if there are opportunities to improve the policy or solve issues they may not have considered while crafting the policy.

According to the policy, the following individuals may file a formal challenge for review:

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1.​ A student currently enrolled in and attending a district school

2. ​A parent or guardian of a student currently enrolled in and attending a district school

3. ​A district employee

4. ​A member of the Board of Education

The district policy outlines the following considerations for review committee members to discuss and make their decision based on:

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Does the challenged material contain sensitive or pornographic material?

Does the challenged material result in creating an excessive or unhealthy interest of sex in minors?

Is it patently offensive to the prevailing contemporary standards of conduct in the general adult community with respect to what is suitable for minors?

When taken as a whole, does it have serious literary, artistic, political, cultural, or scientific value for minors?

Is the challenged material age-appropriate for the students to whom it is accessible?

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Is the challenged material supported by generally accepted scientific standards of evidence?

Except in the case of library materials, does the challenged material focus on, enhance, or help students achieve mastery of the core standards?

Does the challenged material comply with District policies and procedures outlined in Section 2 of procedures in this policy?

Is the challenged material libelous?

Does the challenged material promote unhealthy activities (i.e., drugs, self-harm, suicidal ideation, etc.)?

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Does the challenged material promote activities that are illegal for minors?

The review committee will make a final, binding decision by classifying each challenged material with the following statuses:

Retained: the determination to maintain access in a schoolsetting to the challenged material for all students;

Restricted: the determination to restrict access in a school setting to the challenged material for certain students;

Removed: the determination to prohibit access in a school setting to the challenged material for all students

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The BOE made the decision Tuesday to make the review committee members confidential. The anonymity policy will also apply to the person who files the challenge.

During the meeting, several board members complained that the legislature was heavy-handed and went too far in protecting children from sensitive materials. 

“This has been a really tough one for me. I don’t censor what my kids read. I know that’s probably a little bit of an anomaly in the communities that we live in, but once my kids hit secondary schools, we’ve already had conversations, and I’ve never had an issue. I will also admit that some of these books I’ve read and some of these books are in my home. One of my concerns is that the state definition of pornography is things like nudity and sex, which I would argue can be pornography but nudity just in of itself, that’s not pornography.” said board member Julie King, who represents Eagle Mountain and motioned to approve the new policy.

King’s motion to approve included the amendment that If a book is removed due to sensitive material and communicates a marginalized communitys perspective, a book in a genre of equitable perspective that is within the confines of state code should be purchased to replace it.

“We have students who feel alone and don’t know where to turn to. They need to see themselves in our schools and know that they have a place. I think we’re walking a hard line here. It’s a difficult discussion. I want to make sure our studentshave what they need but also make sure we’re providing appropriate materials.” said Board member Amber Bonner who represents the Highland and Alpine area and shared the same sentiment as King, claiming the state law is too restrictive on materials allowed in schools. 

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Lehi board representative Stacy Bateman seconded King’smotion to adopt the new policy. The motion passed 7-0.