Utah’s Davis School District has made the controversial decision to remove the Bible from elementary and middle schools after a parent complained about the presence of vulgar and violent verses that they deemed inappropriate for young children. This move follows the district’s compliance with a 2022 state law that requires parental involvement in decisions regarding “sensitive material,” resulting in the removal of other titles such as “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie and “Looking for Alaska” by John Green.
The Davis School District, with its 72,000 students, has retained the Bible in high schools while eliminating it from lower grade levels. A committee, consisting of teachers, parents, and administrators, conducted a review of the scripture in response to the parental complaint. While the district has not disclosed the specific reasons cited in the complaint, it has confirmed that the Book of Mormon, the signature scripture of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon church, is also under scrutiny. The district spokesperson, Chris Williams, has refrained from revealing details of the review request, including the reasons behind it and whether it was submitted by the same individual who complained about the Bible.
The Davis School District’s policy does not distinguish between review requests or consider whether they may be satirical. The committee evaluates all requests, regardless of their nature, and makes decisions based on the involvement of teachers, parents, and administrators. The committee’s decision regarding the Bible was published in an online database of review requests, but the reasoning behind it, as well as the specific passages deemed objectionable, were not disclosed.
A copy of the complaint obtained through a public records request highlighted instances of incest, prostitution, and rape in the Bible. The complainant criticized the district for yielding to Parents United and accused them of compromising children’s education, First Amendment rights, and library access. Referring to the Bible as a “sex-ridden” book, the complaint argued that it should be deemed pornographic under the new definition established by state law, which deems material unsuitable for minors.
The review committee, however, determined that the Bible did not meet Utah’s criteria for pornography or indecency, leading to its retention in high schools. Chris Williams clarified that the committee has the authority to make independent decisions according to the new state law and has applied varying standards based on the age of the students in response to multiple challenges. An appeal has been filed by an undisclosed party regarding this decision.
The Bible has frequently encountered challenges, earning its place on the American Library Association’s list of most challenged books. In the past, it has been temporarily removed from school districts in Texas and Missouri. Concerns about potential policies affecting the Bible have surfaced during discussions in state legislatures regarding book-banning procedures. For instance, Arkansas recently passed a law that imposes criminal penalties on librarians who provide “harmful” materials to minors and establishes a process for public requests to relocate materials within libraries.
The push for greater parental control over their children’s education and the curriculum, including the availability of certain materials in schools, has prompted parents to argue that they should have a say in how topics such as gender, sexuality, and race are taught. According to the American Library Association, there has been a surge in attempts to ban or restrict books in the United States, reaching a 20-year high in 2022. Organizations