Frederick County schools ban movie '1984'

February 04, 1994|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Western Maryland Bureau of The Sun

FREDERICK -- A film version of George Orwell's classic futuristic novel "1984" has been banned from Frederick County high school classrooms because of concerns about sex, violence and nudity.

School Superintendent Daniel H. Gadra barred the use of the R-rated film in British literature courses because it contains "sexually explicit" scenes that violate school system policy prohibiting such materials.

"The only way for us to continue to use the film is to waive the [policy]," Dr. Gadra said. "I'm not going to say it's OK to use sexually explicit materials in Frederick County schools. I'm not going to do that. The book is fine. We will continue to use that."

Dr. Gadra's decision came Wednesday, after school officials and a committee of parents, educators and students reviewed complaints from about a dozen parents who objected to the film because of nude scenes, including one showing a couple having intercourse in a field.

Some parents objected to the film's gruesome images, such as a body being eaten by rats. None objected to the book.

"I'm pleased [the film] has been pulled," said Peggy O'Neill of Mount Airy, whose daughter attends Linganore High School. "We aren't a bunch of prudes here. We are regular people. We're not obsessive, but we have a daughter, and we do have values we want to bestow on her. Schools have incredible powers over our children."

Carol Fogler, Frederick's curriculum specialist for high school English and language arts, said the film was used only to supplement reading material in British literature courses. Works by Orwell are on the course's suggested reading lists.

A majority of the committee appointed to evaluate the film agreed that it had appropriate themes, such as man's inhumanity to man and the loss of individual freedoms, but they said that showing a movie with sex scenes such as those in the film violated school system policy.

The committee recommended that the film be shown only if the superintendent revised the policy and required parental permission. Two members objected to any use of the film.

Dr. Gadra, who also said that the film has "themes which are important and valuable to the curriculum," has ordered the formation of a committee to recommend guidelines for the use of R-rated films in high schools and PG and PG-13 films in elementary schools.

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