Songster Barry Polisar Welcome Here After Hitting Sour Note In Anne Arundel

January 06, 1991|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff writer

Barry Louis Polisar can look forward to a warmer welcome in Howard County than he received in neighboring Anne Arundel, where the writer and singer of children's songs was banned from school performances last September.

Polisar, who has gained a national reputation for his comic songs like "I Got a Teacher, She's So Mean," "They Said, 'Eatthe Broccoli,' " and "Don't Put Your Finger Up Your Nose," will perform a Sunday afternoon concert Feb. 3 at Glenelg High School.

The singer's appearance will be a fund-raising event for Lisbon Pre-Kindergarten Inc. Parent Judy Grim, in charge of the concert, saidshe doesn't expect any adverse reaction.

Parents in the non-profit nursery school cooperative decide how to raise money to support theschool, and one parent suggested a Polisar concert after hearing theSilver Spring singer at her synagogue, Grim said.

"The parents are all aware that he was banned in Anne Arundel County," Grim said. "We have listened to some of his songs, and he's sending me some of hissongs and anything I don't feel comfortable with, he won't sing."

Grim said H. Eugene Miller, supervisor of fine arts and music for the county school system, recommended Polisar's work.

"I don't thinkwe've ever received anything negative about him," Miller said, adding that the children's singer has performed at several concerts sponsored by county school PTAs in the last five years.

Polisar, 35, hadbeen performing in school systems across the nation, including Anne Arundel County schools, for 15 years before an evaluation committee of teachers and one parent reviewed his material in 1989-1990 and found it "not appropriate for instructional use."

The school system banned Polisar's songs, records and tapes and the six children's books he has written. He is appealing the action with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union. Polisar and his attorney are expected to decide this week if they will sue.

However, P. Tyson Bennett, legalcounsel for the Anne Arundel school system, said Polisar has not been banned. "We're trying to work with Polisar and his lawyer by providing them with some information and still more," he said.

"He hasn't been banned from our position. The curriculum review committee determined that his material, along with some others, is not appropriate for inclusion in the curriculum. The committee didn't feel it was suitable for students at that level.

"There is some uncertainty aboutwhether he can or can't perform. Our position is that if a PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) wanted to bring him in, he could perform."

Bennett said the threat of a lawsuit has existed since Polisar was told he would not be included in the county's approved curriculum materials.

Polisar said last week that hasn't toned down or self-censored his material, but he has felt effects of the Anne Arundel group'saction on his career. He cited a series of concerts in Syracuse, N.Y. this fall as an example.

"I've played 10 concerts in that district in the previous four years. I got up there this year and I was metby a delegation of school board members who said the superintendent wanted to cancel."

Polisar convinced the board members to let him go ahead with the first concert and if they were offended, to cancel the remaining shows.

"I did the show and afterward, they left shaking their heads at the Anne Arundel action," he said, adding that thehesitancy shown by school officials who knew his work and had seen him perform before "made me aware of the serious aspect of this ban."

Part of the effect cannot be measured, the singer said. Although he remains busy with concerts, he has no way of knowing how many organizations dropped plans to book performances after learning of the ban.

Polisar, who began his career with a concert in 1974 at the now-defunct Ellicott City Elementary School, takes a lively, satirical approach to the vicissitudes of a child's life.

In "My Brother Threw Up On My Stuffed Toy Bunny," he sings:

My brother threw up on my stuffed toy bunny

You better not laugh 'cause it really isn't funny

It was lying in my bed while I was sound asleep

But it could have been worse. Oh, it could have been me.

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