DA says ‘obscene’ book allegations in El Paso County schools insufficient for criminal charges

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The El Paso County Judicial Complex, including county courts, in Colorado Springs, June 12, 2023.

The office of Colorado 4th Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen said Thursday it will not pursue criminal charges against a number of El Paso County school districts after receiving a letter alleging school library books violate federal and state obscenity laws. 

A press release from the office said it had conducted a comprehensive review following a letter from 19 local interest groups and determined the books in question did not merit pursuing criminal charges against the districts.

“The criminal justice system in the United States should not be weaponized against political or social opponents based simply on disagreements,” Allen said in his response letter. “The misuse of the prosecution process only erodes trust in an essential function of our shared government.”

Allen also noted his office does not have the authority to enforce any potential violations of federal law the groups pointed to in their initial letter. 

At issue were “hundreds of library books” the groups said they had discovered across multiple schools of all grade levels in the county. The groups — which included the El Paso County Republican Party, the local chapter of Moms for Liberty and several churches — alleged the books contain lewd and sexual content, often involving children under the age of 18.

“This material promotes an unhealthy obsession with various, disturbing sexual activities which has had a palpable negative impact on the well-being of Minors,” the groups’ letter reads. 

The complaint also argued the books lacked “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value,” according to Colorado Department of Education standards.

In his response, Allen said it was clear the groups were frustrated by the choices of local elected school board members, though the allegations presented did not present enough evidence to prove criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt. 

"I encourage you and others in the community to work with area school boards and administrations to find an agreeable solution to the issues you raised,” Allen said. “I would encourage school boards and school districts to do the same.”