50 Shades of Pretending to Protect Kids from Porn

Tomorrow, June 30, the Utah State Board of Education will debate this issue: What is the best way to prevent pornographic materials in the school?

Two model policies have been proposed with two different visions on how to achieve this goal.

The first version is called the Master Merged Draft, and it allows Utah’s 42-plus districts to create 42-plus different interpretations of how the law should be followed.

The second version is called Member Cline’s Sensitive Material Model Policy Draft 3.5. It helps protect the districts from lawsuits by requiring them to use a uniform policy based strictly on Utah laws defining and prohibiting obscene materials.

When you read these two policies, here are some key questions to keep in mind:

First:
Does this policy really hold districts accountable to do the right thing? The reason the issue of porn in our kids’ schools has come before the State Board is because the districts refuse to police themselves when it comes to removing explicit materials from school settings. Here are just a few of the many examples of this happening In Utah schools:

8th Grade Student Encounters Sexually Explicit Material in Health Class
Canyons School District Puts Obscene Content Back on Book Shelves
Laverna in the Library – Facebook Group Focused on Explicit Material Sightings in Schools
Davis School District Keeps “Red Hood” in Schools
Pornographic Materials in Schools Inspire 2020 Bill to Create Porn Warning Labels on Books
Parents Plea With Washington County School District to Remove Pornographic Material

The Master Merged Draft says that a district could determine for itself if it did the right thing in retaining explicit materials. The only oversight the State Board would have is to evaluate whether a district followed its own process or not in that determination, not whether that determination actually complied with the law.

By stark contrast, Member Cline’s Sensitive Material Model Policy Draft 3.5 requires the State Board to act as a check on the districts’ decisions to retain explicit materials. A complaint about explicit material itself could be appealed to the board directly, ensuring that the Board would have to keep a finger on the pulse of what is actually happening in our children’s schools.

We don’t need 50 Shades of Pretending to Protect Kids from Porn—we need the State Board to actually follow through and create a single system that will allow them to hold the districts accountable to the law.

Second: What does the Utah Office of the Attorney General (AGO) have to say about pornographic materials in schools?

The AGO in its Official Memorandum—Laws Surrounding School Libraries stated unequivocally that one of the first actions districts can take is to immediately remove books from school libraries that are “categorically defined as pornography” under state law, and that “nothing should prevent the Board and LEAs from proactively complying with state law in removing pornographic books from library shelves.”

The Master Merged Draft allows children to have limited access to harmful materials with “parent permission” or an “access code” (lines 84-87). Giving ANY access to children to porn is AGAINST THE LAW. Parents can’t let their kids have access to alcohol with their permission. They can’t let their kids have access to illicit drugs with their permission. But this draft produced by the board staff and some Members gives kids access to what may clearly be deemed pornographic—with parent permission.

Compare this to Member Cline’s Policy Draft, which removes the material until a final determination on the material’s obscene status is made. Under no circumstances should children be allowed to be exposed to harmful material when another, safer option is available. Member Cline’s draft puts guardrails at the top of the cliff, instead of ambulances at the bottom.

If you care at all about real protections for our kids from sexually explicit and obscene images and language, your voice is needed NOW. HB374 was passed by the state legislature this year to supposedly “stop porn in our schools.”

Only one draft before the State Board of Education in their June 30 meeting unapologetically puts our children first. Your support is needed for such a time as this.

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