Polisar Back On Play List

Folk Singer Allowed To Perform In Schools

September 12, 1991|By Dianne Williams Hayes | Dianne Williams Hayes,Staff writer

After more than a year of controversy, school officials yesterday decided folk singer Barry Louis Polisar is free once again to offer county students such sage advice as "Don't Stick Your Finger Up Your Nose."

Under an agreement between Polisar and the Board of Education signed yesterday, parent-teacher associations and principals are freeto hire the performer for concerts and workshops. His books will remain on school library shelves.

"He was negotiating an agreement that I felt comfortable with," said Dennis Younger, the school system's executive director of curriculum. "(Board attorney) Tyson Bennett was working through a procedure for Mr. Polisar to work with the school system."

Polisar, whose work was deemed unfit for county students by a curriculum review committee last year, said his songs allow children to laugh at themselves and the world. While admitting the ban hurt, he said he was able to weather the controversy by employing the same non-traditional world view that got him banned in the first place.

"I'm somewhat amazed that it has taken an entire year to resolve," said Polisar, of Silver Spring. "I don't want to be in the position to gloat. I'm satisfied that an agreement has been reached. I'm pleased that I got everything that I asked for."

The agreement comes in time for a three-day performers' showcase at Rolling Knolls Elementary, where entertainers perform their work before PTA representatives, principals and other groups interested in hiring entertainment for school functions during the year. Last year, Polisar did not attend the showcase, at the request of school officials.

This year, he is scheduled to perform Oct. 3.

"I'm planning to do a 10-minute excerpt of some of my songs," he said. "Hopefully, I will get a chance to talk to people about the events of last year."

He is also scheduled to perform at the Kennedy Center's open house Arts Festival in Washington this weekend. In March, he was among the entertainers performing on the White House lawn for the annual Easter egg roll.

Polisar has worked with county schools since 1976. Since the ban, he has seen a significant drop-off of work in this area, but his national exposure reached an all-time high. Talk show appearances and magazine features focused on him being shut out of the school system for performing such songs as "I Got a DogHis Name is Cat" -- a song that Polisar performed on the children's television show "Sesame Street."

Polisar threatened to sue the school system in January, after talks stalled. At that time, he said, hewas seeking a public statement from the county that he was free to perform.

A music review committee found the songs unacceptable and blocked his tapes, records and six books from being added to the curriculum. Polisar argued that the material was intended to be used as entertainment and warned that his treatment would set a "dangerous precedent." Board attorney Bennett, who said after Polisar threatened tosue that the performer had never been banned, was not available for comment.

School board president Jo Ann Tollenger said board members were not involved in the agreement.

"I don't recall ever discussing it," Tollenger said. "We were aware. You would have to be dead not to know that it was in the papers. It was in the hands of Tyson.

"We're always glad when we have a problem and can resolve it. Everyone walks away feeling OK," she said. "It's like the Monday morning quarterback -- we can say what we should have and could have done. My personal belief is if we can resolve a problem, do it as quickly as you can."

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