Md. school 'censorship' decried by lobby group

September 03, 1992|By Paul Kirby | Paul Kirby,States News Service

WASHINGTON -- At a Baltimore middle school, a principal pulled issues of Entertainment Weekly and Time magazines from the library because they contained risque pictures of Madonna, and ordered Sports Illustrated discontinued because of its liquor and cigarette ads.

In Columbia, Md., parents of third-graders found what they considered to be objectionable language in a book called "How to Eat Fried Worms," and one parent complained about "Sweet Sixteen and Never" for its depiction of teen romance.

In Charles County, Md., a parent asked the sheriff to arrest teachers responsible for distributing a handout on Maryland folklore to third-graders that the parent said was "laced with sexual double-entendre."

These are among 11 incidents in Maryland cited Tuesday by People for the American Way, a self-styled "people's lobby," which espouses constitutional liberties, in its annual report on attempts nationwide to censor learning materials in public schools.

One incident occurred in Baltimore, five in Columbia, three in Charles County, one in Frederick and one in Pylesville. In seven cases, the challenges were rejected; in two, the materials were removed; and in the other two, a restriction was imposed or a compromise was reached.

Maryland had the 14th highest number of censorship incidents, according to the report. Last year's survey reported nine incidents in the Free State.

In all, 376 attacks on the "freedom to learn" were reported in 44 states during the year. The liberal advocacy group said conservative religious and political groups claim to represent most parents but represent only their own interests.

But Beverly LaHaye, president of Concerned Women for America, which describes itself as a pro-family organization representing 600,000 people, said parental objections to school materials do not mean every book objected to should be removed. "School administrators, teachers and parents should be encouraged to freely debate educational issues on the local level -- that's called democracy," she said.

Nat Harrington, spokesman for the Baltimore public schools, said, "We're not telling schools what they should or should not do. We're not into censorship in Baltimore. But we also have to protect the interest of our students and create for them a wholesome. . .learning environment."

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