School panel urges ban on book


A Howard County public schools committee has recommended that a book on occult practices be removed from elementary school libraries, a source says.

Superintendent Michael Hickey is expected to decide next week when he returns from vacation whether to follow the panel's recommendation on the book, "Curses, Hexes & Spells."

The school system's criteria review committee voted to remove the book at a closed session yesterday, the source said, adding that the panel also recommended keeping "The Devil Did It" because this book about a girl making friends with the devil is a fairy tale.

Karen Trotsky told the panel yesterday that she was "outraged" to learn that her 10-year-old son obtained a copy of "Curses, Hexes & Spells" from the Thunder Hill Elementary School media center. She said her son innocently used the books to practice occult magical spells.

"I felt the book was about how to go about demonic worship in easy steps," Trotsky said, urging the committee to remove the book from elementary schools.

Lena Herlihy says she was equally disturbed when her 8-year-old daughter told her she had read "The Devil Did It" at the Clemens Crossing Elementary School media center because the young character in the book ended up befriending the devil, who was living in her room.

"It was different from my feelings about the devil, from the values I want her to have," Herlihy said.

Thomas Walker, the school system's media services director, said removal of the books would pose a restriction on First Amendment protections of freedom of speech and that any action to remove them could be challenged in court.

"We don't see anything wrong with them because they've been approved according to normal procedures," said Walker, adding that no books have been removed from the library in nine years.

Both books are available from the Howard County Public Library and have been around for years. "Curses, Hexes & Spells," written by Daniel Cohen, was published in 1974 and is in six county schools. "The Devil Did It" was written by Susan Jeschke and published in 1975 and is available only at Clemens Crossing.

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