tuscaloosa news, oct 1, 2007

activists debate seized book


by lydia seabol avant
staff writer

a brookwood family's protest of a school library book with descriptive sexual references has garnered the attention of activist groups across the nation.

lysa harding, 15, checked out the book -- "sandpiper" by ellen wittinger -- and refused to return it to brookwood high's library after reading it, saying it was inappropriate material for a school library.  she and her grandmother, pam pennington, went public with their concerns in september and response has come from all sides of the issue.

several organizations, including dan kleinman of safe libraries.org, volunteered to pay the $25 fee harding faces for not returning the book.

"this is something happening all over the u.s. -- i've dealt with it myself," said kleinman, who became involved in the organization after his kindergartner obtained what he calls an explicit book from her school library.  in kleinman's case, the principal pulled the book from the shelves.

two anonymous, out-of-state supporters on the other side, however, have furnished copies of "sandpiper" for brookwood's library, said county schools spokesman john merrill.  the books have not been processed and are not yet on school shelves.

a committee formed at brookwood to evaluate the complaint is scheduled to meet with pennington on oct. 10.  their decision will be announced by oct. 24, merrill said.

if pennington does not agree with the committee's decision, she can take the issue to the county board of education, which will make the final decision.

the novel tells the story of a 15-year-old girl named sandpiper hollow ragsdale, who is on a "sexual power trip and engages in random hookups" for oral sex, according to a review by the school library journal.

according to the review, the novel takes a bold stance on sexual relationships, and carries the overall theme that oral sex is the same as sex and has consequences.

harding said the book is too sexually explicit and should not be available at school.

the two copies of "sandpiper" given to brookwood will remain unavailable until a final decision has been made, merrill said.

the only other copy of the book in the county school system is at hillcrest high school.  merrill said that copy is "on reserve," which means it is available in the library, but cannot be checked out.

a 2003 u.s. supreme court decision, u.s. v. american library association, found that a legitimate or even compelling argument could be made to keep minors away from inappropriate material.  the case dealt with the availability of internet pornography in public libraries and resulted in the creation of the federal children's internet protection act.

kleinman said the act covers books as well.  he does not blame schools for stocking what he considers explicit books, but does blame the american library association, which he said disregards the court findings and suggests books containing sexual content for children's libraries.

"books which contain inappropriate sexual content are now standards in public libraries and in schools and are even given awards," kleinman said.

the ala is known for its stances in support of the first amendment and the right of intellectual freedom.  according to ala's library bill of rights, a person's use of a library should not be limited or denied because of background, views, origin or age.

this week, the association celebrates the 26th annual banned books week, which began saturday.

as part of banned books week, according to the ala web site, the organization encourages the public to read a banned book to celebrate the freedom to read such books.

on the net:

www.safelibraries.org

www.ala.org.

reach lydia seabol avant at lydia.seabol@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0222.

[source url:  http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/article/20071001/news/710010318/1007 ]

[url of this page:  http://www.safelibraries.org/activists_debate_seized_book1oct2007by_lydia_seabol_avant.htm ]

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