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Parents turn down two books


A parent book-screening council has voted down two more novels proposed for use by Carroll County teachers for next year.

"I Am Regina" by Sally Keehm and "The Sniper" by Theodore Taylor had been recommended by sixth- and seventh-grade teachers, respectively.

The novels join the second-grade level "The Witch Goes to School" by Norman Bridwell on the list of books that didn't get past the parent panel for the 1995-1996 school year.

The council had its annual meeting May 18. About 40 members rejected the witch book because they said its depiction of a benevolent witch could offend devout Christians or Jews. The panel approved about 100 other books.

Members wanted more time to consider another eight books, and mailed ballots by Monday to Gregory Eckles, director of curriculum.

When he counted the ballots Monday afternoon, Dr. Eckles said, the Keehm and Taylor books receive a majority of "no" votes.

"These books can still be in our libraries and they can still be taken out by students and read," he said.

The council votes only on books that teachers assign in class. Library books go through a separate process, but Carroll has a history of challenges to library books as well.

For the 1993-1994 school year, Maryland was the state with the fifth-highest book challenges, according to People for the American Way, which acts as a watchdog organization against book-banning.

Only three of the 20 books challenged in Maryland were removed but two of those were in Carroll County. "Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes" and "A Deadly Game" by Anita Jackson were removed after Carroll parents complained of violence and language.

Over the past five years, the Carroll County Curriculum Council usually has approved all or all but one of the books on the list. Books considered by the council first pass through at least two layers of review by teachers and reading supervisors.

The council voted May 18 to recommend the approximately 100 remaining books to the county Board of Education, which meets Wednesday.

The other books that were held over for the mail vote, but accepted, are: "The Giver" by Lois Lowry, for seventh grade; "A House in the Snow" by M. J. Engh, for fourth grade; and "Into the Dream" by William Sleator for fifth grade.

Also approved in the mail vote were social studies textbooks "American Nation" by James West Davidson and Michael B. Stoff for seventh grade; "Around the World in a Hundred Years" by Jean Fritz for fifth grade; and a new much-touted series called "A History of US" by Joy Hakim for seventh grade.

Most of the objections at the meeting were over fears that children would be scared, or would try to emulate dangerous situations.

Cate Baker, a parent representing Charles Carroll Elementary School, objected to "The Sniper," whose author spoke in March at Mount Airy Public Library. Mr. Taylor was in Maryland to receive an award from the Maryland International Reading Association for the book, about a young boy trying to protect himself and the animals in his family's wildlife park from a sniper while his parents are away.

BTC Ms. Baker was concerned about the boy's example, driving before he is old enough to get a license, and carrying a gun. She said the negative characterization of the boy's mother, and his resentment of her, could reinforce the natural tension that parents and children that age have.

"Kids don't need any more excuses to do things that are dangerous in real life," Ms. Baker said.

In "I Am Regina," a story of a young woman pioneer, the main character is nearly raped by an American Indian, until the man's mother walks in. She stops him, shames him and condemns him.

Cheryl A. McFalls, parent and a former school board member, objected to the book at the meeting, because of the near-rape scene. Ms. McFalls represents North Carroll High School.

Another mother defended the book, saying the scene was written from the victim's perspective and was not prurient. She said the mother's character exemplifies honor and values among her people, to counter the behavior of her son.

Ms. Baker said rape is an issue that should be discussed only at home with children that young.

"It shouldn't even be brought up in school" in the sixth grade, she said.

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