In Our Mothers’ House is a tale of Marmee and Meema, two loving lesbian mothers and how their adoptive family’s happy home isn’t that different from any of the other families on the block. It's a happy tale schoolchildren in Davis County could have enjoyed easily before the school district pulled the book from school shelves.
Award-winning children’s book author Patricia Polacco’s book may just have had the apostrophe on the wrong side of the “s” in her 2009 book In Our Mothers’ House for some families in Davis County who objected last spring to the book’s placement at Winnridge Elementary, in Davis County. In April, the district voted to have the book placed behind the librarian’s desk in all district libraries and moved to require students who wanted to check the book out to first get written permission.
Now, the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, backed by the ACLU Foundation in New York, have filed suit in U.S. District Court against the Davis School District for restricting access to the book.
In the Nov. 13 lawsuit, the ACLU argues “the District has placed a discriminatory burden on students’ ability to access fully protected speech. Even worse, restricting access to In Our Mothers’ House and segregating it from the rest of the library collection places an unconstitutional stigma on the ideas contained in the book and the students who wish to read it.” According to the suit, a group of parents had complained of the book having “normalized a lifestyle we don’t agree with.” It’s that kind of attitude that confounds advocates like Valerie Larabee, director of the Utah Pride Center.
Larabee says that with more same-sex parents raising children, restricting and stigmatizing a book about those families stigmatizes those families in turn. “Now, [same-sex parents’] children are coming into a society where there are some that don’t understand their moms or dads and some that don’t accept them at all,” Larabee says. “We as a society owe it to those children not to stigmatize their parents and not make them feel any less successful in their lives because of the family they were born into.”
"We still feel comfortable with the process we followed," says Davis School District spokesperson Chris Williams. "That process sis laid out in school district policy and that policy existed for years before this issue came to a head."
Williams also says the issue is overblown since parents and children can still obtain that book and have discussions about it. "The parent is still in the driver's seat," Williams says.
Still Williams acknowledges that school libraries have no signage or any indication for students that Our Mothers' House is not on shelves but behind the librarian's counter. When asked how students who knew nothing of the book would know it existed but wasn't on the shelves, Williams says:
"I bet if you are a student you don't know about 99 percent of the books on the shelves anyways."