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Park City parents speak out against school district’s book policy

Kathy Pratchett and Diane Livingston are Park City parents who are speaking out against the district's current policy on the book curriculum.

Two parents of 9th graders in the Park City School District have raised concerns about what they call pornography in the reading curriculum.

The Park City Board of Education postponed adopting a new sensitive materials policy last month, requesting more input from parents and staff before finalizing it.

Passing a sensitive materials policy is required by every school district in the state under a law passed by the Utah Legislature in May.

The school board wanted a further discussion on the policy’s constitutionality and potential violation of first amendment rights.

Kathy Pratchett has a 9th grader in the Park City School District. She said the district’s current policy is in direct conflict with the state law which she says clearly describes what’s considered pornographic.

“The Legislature has ruled that we need to keep pornography out of the hands of minors in whatever form it takes. So implementing HB 374 is not about banning books. It's about setting a standard for the books that are allowed in our school system.”

Pratchett said her student was assigned the book “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” this year will be exposed to what she calls pornography – because the book has a description of masturbation.

She said the district’s book review committee contains staff and parents who disagree with her viewpoint. She said she’d like to join the committee but has been kept off it because she’s expressed her views to the school board and Superintendent Jill Gildea.

“Even more infuriating is that I will continue to be barred from any review committee for the next three years, punishing parents for bringing up their concerns is no way to improve a school district. Unfortunately, I'm not confident that the sexual explicit material will be removed as directed under the state law.”

Heidi Matthews is the spokesperson for the district. She confirmed that parents and employees who have made sensitive materials review requests in the previous three years aren’t eligible to serve on the committee.

Matthews added that the sensitive materials policy that the board is considering includes a philosophy statement affirming parents as primarily responsible for their child’s education. But the review committee will be the final authority on what is accessible to all students.

Diane Livingston also has a 9th grader in the school district. She said she tried to get “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” banned from the curriculum three years ago.

“And went from through the whole appeal process. teacher, principal administrators, school board, Superintendent finally got a result from the school district attorney, they who decided that the book can stay and that all the other books that I presented to them, which is very specific as to what it is the laws that this new policy leans on our old laws. And that's what I was using.”

The deadline for public comment about the sensitive materials policy is October 15th. For more information visit the district’s website http://www.pcschools.us