2 videos, a book rejected

July 13, 1995|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

In an unusual series of votes yesterday, the Carroll County Board of Education struck down a history book and two sex education videotapes that already had been approved by parent-teacher screening committees.

Voted down unanimously were the video "Date Rape: Behind Closed Doors," because of its mention of condoms, and the history book "Around the World in 100 Days," because of a statement perceived to be anti-Christian.

Voted down 3-2 was "Four Men Speak Out," with members C. Scott Stone and Carolyn L. Scott in favor of the video featuring men talking about being abused as children.

Those who voted against "Four Men" said it was just dull.

"I'm not in favor of censorship, by and large," said board member Joseph D. Mish Jr., the board member who initially asked for a closer look at eight of the more than 100 books and videos approved by the screening councils.

Mr. Mish said that even though a majority of the screening council members approved the materials, the school board should look at the ones that even a few parents were concerned about.

"Their kid gets the book, they don't like it, then we hear about it," Mr. Mish said.

"There are sufficient materials out there that we don't need to adopt materials that will divide our community," said board member C. Scott Stone, who has opposed censoring books and second-guessing the screening committees.

Mr. Stone was among the most vocal foes of the "Date Rape" video because of its mention of condom use, saying it violated the board's policy of teaching abstinence.

Administrators reminded Mr. Stone that the policy also says the board recognizes that some students might not choose abstinence and that the board also has a responsibility to educate those students as well. That policy is also a state by-law, said Superintendent Brian Lockard.

Mr. Stone said his understanding of the policy was different and that he would review it.

Although Mr. Mish voted against most of the books, the one he said he opposed most was "Around the World in 100 Days," a nonfiction book by Jean Fritz chronicling explorers.

"Unfortunately, the book is a pretty good book, by and large," Mr. Mish said.

But a passage on the Fourth century burning of the library in Alexandria said that "Christians did not believe in scholarship" and mentions intellectual suppression by Christians.

"It's a sweeping generalization, and its definitely anti-Christian," said Mr. Mish, an evangelical Christian who is retired after 25 years as a history teacher.

He backed up his argument with several specific historical references, while the rest of the board members listened silently.

"I will bow to Mr. Mish's historical perspective and expertise," said member Carolyn L. Scott, and the board unanimously voted the book down without further comment.

Social studies coordinator Peggy Altoff said she was disappointed to see the book dropped. "I think his objections were based on that passage alone," Ms. Altoff said. "It's increasingly difficult to find any kind of material that doesn't have a line or a passage or a page that's not in some way offensive to someone."

The book still may be available in school libraries. It is not a textbook, but what educators call a "trade book," available to the general public in bookstores and libraries. The author has written several social studies books.

"They're very popular because they tell a good story," Ms. Altoff said. "That's what history is, a good story."

The unanimous votes were rare even for Carroll County's traditionally conservative school system.

For example, state law requires only that parents send back a form if they don't want their child to participate in sex education courses. Carroll requires a signed form even if they do want their child included.

More typical were the 3-2 votes on three other books and one video that were approved yesterday.

On all three -- the novels "The Giver," by Lois Lowry, "House in the Snow," by M. J. Engh and "Into the Dream," by William Sleator; and the video "Sexual Harassment" -- Mr. Mish and Gary W. Bauer voted no and Mrs. Scott, Mr. Stone and board President Ann M. Ballard voted yes.

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