For more than two years now, parents, community members, and legislators — awakened to the pornographic nature of some materials that remain in Utah K-12 schools — have borne a surprising amount of ridicule and scorn. Some in the media, self-declared civil liberty adherents and education leaders have vilified those of us who simply want to establish laws to protect the innocence of Utah’s children from indecent and graphic materials in K-12 schools like HB374 in 2022 and HB29 this year.

Opponents of these bills raise three main arguments: First, they assert that the materials are not pornographic, or “not that bad.” Second, they insist that age-appropriate limits for children in K-12 public schools violate the First Amendment. Third, they argue that uniformly enforcing statewide the 2007 criminal standard for indecent and pornographic materials at school offends the notion of “local control.” 

This pains my soul.

Today, it requires battle-hardened parent warriors to protect children from content, which less than a decade ago, the Utah State Board of Education, Legislature and governor all resoundingly decried as “a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms” that can “impair a changing child’s brain, social interactions, and emotional skills.”

It pains my soul that today it requires these battle-hardened parents to stand against such sexualization of K-12 school children. Elected officials who protect children from this lewd and licentious content bear derision from an education establishment which is fearful or apathetic (at best) and active advocates (at worst) for “instructional materials” which cannot be quoted or displayed in this newspaper, nor in legislative or school board meetings of adults. The irony here is that these materials that aren’t fit to be printed or reviewed in the chambers where our elected officials deliberate remain in the hands of schoolchildren to this day.

It pains my soul that Utah school children remain exposed to such indecent and pornographic materials, while some adult legislators block the recitation of such content seemingly to preserve the false narrative that it is “not that bad.” Adult school board members across the state also protect themselves from hearing the nature of this indecent material, while turning a deaf ear to parents who only want to protect their children from the harms it will causes.  

It pains my soul that Utah parents are criticized for building a website, RatedBooks.org, at their own expense, to help other parents see for themselves the obscene and indecent materials in their children’s schools. It pains my soul that despite HB374 passing in 2022 and prohibiting all sensitive materials in the school setting, school board members and superintendents frequently refuse parental pleas to protect their children.

It pains my soul that the silent majority of Utah teachers and education leaders too often fear stepping forward to protect children from this material because of a loud minority that will blast them with a torrent of “tolerance.” Can it really be that so many educational professionals fear more for their jobs and standing than for protecting innocent children from exposure to the lurid descriptions and depictions of illicit sex acts that make any gathering of adults blush at the mention? Parents hold out hope that more education professionals will yet champion the safety and innocence of children over concerns about their personal reputations.

It pains my soul that many organizations purporting to represent Utah teachers, Utah librarians, school boards, and superintendents oppose enforcing long-standing age-appropriate limits to protect children from such pornographic publications. 

Please help me understand why these education organizations are so adamant about keeping criminally indecent, vulgar materials in our children’s schools?

View Comments

It pains my soul for our state and nation that so many adults ignore the known harmful effects of marinating the minds of our children in a barrage of illicit sex acts which warp their sense of virtue and self-worth so foundational to self-government.

In “A Letter to a Member of the National Assembly,” British statesman Edmund Burke wrote, “What is liberty without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils ... it is madness without restraint. Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites. ... Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without.”

Heaven help us understand why following the law and protecting children from the known evils of indecent and pornographic material became something to deride? Because it pains my soul.

Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, is author of “Where’s the Line? How States Protect the Constitution.”

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.