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AG Reyes on Pornography in Schools: Follow the Law & Protect Children

June 2, 2022

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes and his team are fully committed to the fight against the harmful impacts of pornography on children. This week, the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) issued its analysis in an Official Memorandum to the Utah State Board of Education regarding HB 374, which prohibits child access to pornography in schools.   

Here’s a link to the memorandum drafted by the Utah Attorney General and Utah Solicitor General that clarifies and supersedes any prior analysis on the matter provided by the AGO.

AG Reyes’ message to Utah schools is clear: Follow the law. Protect students. If the law is challenged, we will defend it.

The AGO is working carefully with the Board of Education on guidance and training to support public schools as they implement HB 374 in harmony with state law, the First Amendment and federal court rulings.

This memorandum addresses only the single issue of library books that meet the definition of pornographic or indecent under state statute. The AGO will continue to provide support and analysis on this and other matters related to HB 374.

Today, Attorney General Sean D. Reyes shared the following statement:

This memo contains our office’s official analysis regarding removal of school library books deemed pornographic or indecent under state law. It supersedes any prior analysis on the matter provided by the Utah AG’s Office.

The Utah State Board of Education and individual schools should immediately and strictly comply with state statutes, including HB 374, to remove pornographic books from all school libraries.

The urgency is even greater for elementary and middle school libraries as they serve younger students. Implementation and compliance will protect children and help immunize schools from lawsuits for violating state law.

When removing a book that meets the statutory definition of pornography, schools can protect against constitutional challenges under federal law by evaluating in good faith whether there is serious value to students that justifies keeping that book on shelves.

While undertaking such review will much more likely validate removal than excuse it, such review will help schools comply if certain federal tests are applied by a court.

Nothing in our analysis should be viewed as a license to avoid compliance with state law.

Let me be very clear. Whenever it involves children, pornography is poison. No question. No debate.

Access to porn is already a public health crisis made worse by its prevalence online and via smartphones among kids and teens.

For many children today, porn exposure and addiction comes as young as 9-12 years old. Such exposure can have harmful physical, mental, and behavioral effects on kids.

Pornography exposure has no place in our schools, where young minds come to learn and grow. Parents must be able to trust in a safe and healthy environment for their children at school.

I’ve worked tirelessly for over a decade, both in the private sector and at the AGO, fighting to protect children from porn addiction and predators who exploit kids through porn.

My team and I have dedicated significant resources to combat this threat in Utah. We have investigated and prosecuted cases involving children groomed and victimized through porn. The damage caused is frightening.

I have fought for resources to empower Children’s Justice Centers, victim advocates and non-profit partners like Fight the New Drug.

The AGO, under my leadership, has received numerous awards and recognition for the success of our Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Taskforce and Secure Strikeforce’s protection of kids from threats such as pornography.

No one should question the resolve of the Utah AG Office to protect kids from porn and the damage it can cause. If it were up to me, I would take very proactive measures for removal.

But, while our legal guidance is intended to help all parties navigate the complexities of state law, the First Amendment, related court decisions and public health concerns, the final decision on which books will be found on library shelves remains with the Utah State Board of Education and schools. I implore them to make decisions that maximize the safety of our youth.

The Board of Education must create model policies, and act confidently within the parameters of state law to prevent the inclusion of pornography on school library shelves. In making those critical choices, there is always a risk of a legal challenge. But the risks to our kids health and wellness are even greater.

Our analysis has been and will continue to be: following state law protects the school and most importantly, our kids. We are not policymakers. If the law is challenged, we will defend it. We applaud Representative Ivory and many others in the Utah Legislature for finding policy solutions that protect our children.

We respect the Board of Education, and will continue to work with them to assist, train, defend as necessary, assure compliance with the law, and provide the safety deserved by all Utah parents and children.