Washington County School District removes 14 more books from libraries

ST. GEORGE — The Washington County School Board received an update on the recent filing of complaints about 22 book titles by a concerned parent in the last public school board meeting on Nov. 8 during public comments.

The school board listens to Erika Hodges, who expresses frustration about books being in violation of the Sensitive Library Materials policy, St. George, Utah, Nov. 8, 2022 | Photo by Nick Yamashita, St. George News

Erika Hodges spoke during public comments about what she said was a continuous problem of “porn” in books within school libraries and the school district’s resistance to listening and working with her. Board member Craig Seegmiller met with Hodges after the meeting and took her list of 22 books and excerpts, filing them into the sensitive library materials review process.

During the work session of special work meetings on Nov. 28, Jeremy Cox, the district’s technology director, reported on the results of the 22 books reviewed. There was one other title under one complaint, which also was reviewed.

He said 14 out of the total 23 titles were removed from the shelves of school libraries after being found in violation of the Sensitive Materials in Schools bill, designated HB 374 in the 2022 legislative session, and containing content that fit under the legal definition of “pornographic or indecent.”

A total of 44 books have been removed since the process began.

Most of the complaints of “pornographic” material in books within school libraries have been issued by parents who have aligned themselves with the beliefs of Utah Parents United, a parent-funded non-profit organization dedicated to parental rights in education.

The school board mentioned seeing more pushback from the Utah State Board of Education lately regarding the school district process of reviewing sensitive materials.

As it stands, some books may be removed automatically, as outlined in district policy 4211, section 4, School Media Centers Libraries. School librarians select materials that must “be age appropriate for the school’s student population” and “prohibited materials shall be removed without regard to section 5 of this policy.” Section five is the review process.

Others will continue to be reviewed by the process after complaints are filed, and the review board will decide on removal.

“USBE staff has been pushing in their state library meetings that, ‘Hey, the AG (attorney general) is not going to come to your defense if something goes wrong,’ which is exactly opposite of what the AG has told us,” Cox said. “There is a lot of feeling up in the northern Salt Lake area that everything has to go through a committee.”

Amid frustration about the state school board’s alleged contradicting statement with the attorney general’s in terms of support should legal issues arise, Kelly Blake, who serves as president of the Washington County School District, said they plan to continue with their process.

“We are already moving forward,” Blake said. “If they want to get left in the dust, that is their issue.”

In terms of the local review board’s final decision on the 23 books reviewed, board member Terry Hutchinson and other board members said they disagreed with the decision and felt like there should have been more than 14 books removed.

“I will tell you right now that I disagree with some of their decisions,” Hutchinson said. “They were mistaken.”

The next school district board meeting will be the regular meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 13, at 4:30 p.m. and will be held at the Washington County School District Office, 121 W. Tabernacle.

A list of book titles that have violated the policy is listed below in the photo gallery. This list includes ones that have been removed and others that are in the process of being removed.

Updated Dec. 9, 2022, 9 a.m.; Correct chart of banned books added.

Photo Gallery

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