OPINION — I have taught English courses at our local university for eleven years, and I find great value in books. As a mother and an educator, I would like to respond to a recent opinion piece where the author argues in favor of pornographic books in our school libraries.   

File Photo: “Out of Darkness” was the second book removed from school libraries by WCSD, St. George, Utah, August 2, 2022 | Photo by Nick Yamashita, St. George News

The author’s first argument suggests the removal of pornographic books from schools is “book-banning.” Recently, Utah Senator Mike Lee had an attorney testify that removing pornographic books from K-12 schools is not “book-banning,” and the explanation is as obvious as it sounds.

The reason that books removed for pornographic material are not “banned-books” is because these books are still readily accessible outside of Washington County schools. So, moving on from the author’s erroneous “book-ban” argument, next we can address the author’s primary argument: she believes in storytelling.

While I feel there is great value in storytelling, I have concerns that this retired teacher advocates so strongly for books and stories that empower children with their bodies and sexuality. There is no evidence to support this teacher’s argument that exposing sexually-traumatized children to pornographic books is healing for them.

In fact, research suggests the contrary: therapists express alarm that exposure to pornographic content re-traumatizes children. Perhaps, at a minimum, we should all agree that the goal of our educators should be to “do no harm.” So, rather than a belief in storytelling, let me tell you what I believe in: parental rights and data-driven decisions.

Stock photo | Photo by art159/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

With children coming from diverse backgrounds and experiences, I believe in the rights of parents/caregivers to introduce books that they consider healing or helpful to their children. If parents want to provide children with books that have been removed from schools, they can gain access online, or at local bookstores or public libraries.

There is no reason to have these books at taxpayer-funded school libraries, without parental supervision.

As a mother, I am mindful of the many parents who have been silenced at school board meetings for reading aloud “inappropriate” content from these books.

Yet, somehow, these same books are considered “appropriate” for children’s consumption. Common sense says otherwise. Let’s get educators back to academics. Let’s let parents be parents. And, lastly, let’s encourage the Utah legislature to continue researching and making beneficial data-driven decisions for our children.   

What does peer-reviewed research say about children being exposed to sexually explicit material?

Stock image of student reading in a library for illustrative purposes only, date and location unspecified | Photo by SeventyFour / Getty Images, St. George News

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that “(early exposure to sexual content) is linked with shifts in attitudes about sex and gender, earlier progression to sexual activity, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infection among adolescents.”

The academy also warns that there is harm to women and girls, through objectification and body shaming. With pornographic books’ potential to harm children physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially, Washington County School District, and the State of Utah, have a moral and ethical obligation to protect children from exposure to such content (which is the purpose of H.B.374).

And, where the State of Utah has an interest in promoting the health and safety of our children, I would thank them and encourage them to continue to put forward this kind of beneficial legislation.

Submitted by ALEXIS ENCE, Santa Clara.

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