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Controversial works by writer-singer to stay in Arundel schools


ANNAPOLIS -- Controversial children's writer-singer Barry Louis Polisar has made a comeback in Anne Arundel County.

The 36-year-old Silver Spring-based performer, whose works were banned by county schools last year, yesterday approved an agreement with the school board that assures that his recordings and books will stay on school library shelves.

"I'm pleased. It's been settled to my complete satisfaction," said Mr. Polisar, whose often satirical repertoire includes such irreverent lyrics as "my brother threw up on my stuffed toy bunny" and "never cook your sister in a frying pan."

"If nothing else, I have learned from the experience," he said.

County school officials have maintained that Mr. Polisar's works and his performances were never banned, only deemed inappropriate for use as instructional material -- a designation which barred teachers from using his work in class.

However, as a result of the decision last September, Mr. Polisar's name was dropped from a list of performers approved for use in the schools, and the controversy caused him to lose concert bookings.

The three-page agreement includes a statement affirming that the school board has no objection to Mr. Polisar's school concerts. The board also agreed to convene a new committee to decide if his audio cassettes, videotapes and books are suitable for classroom use, said P. Tyson Bennett, an Annapolis lawyer who represented the board.

In return, Mr. Polisar, who had threatened to sue the county, has agreed not to do so. The songwriter had been supported in his efforts by the American Civil Liberties Union.

"In my opinion, Mr. Polisar has used this event as an enormous public relations tool," Mr. Bennett said. "If a PTA wants to retain Mr. Polisar from a performance, that's fine. It was never our intention to prohibit him from participating from any of those functions."

Mr. Polisar said Anne Arundel County is the only jurisdiction to ever ban his songs and writings. He has performed at the White House Easter egg roll, the Smithsonian Institution and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The 15-year-veteran performer acknowledged that the ban had an up side: publicity over the dispute won him national attention.

"I lost things and I gained things," he said. "I guess a portion of the population will always find my tapes subversive. People take objection to all kinds of things."

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