'Froggy' gets reprieve after being banned from school libraries Compromise decision makes book available to teachers and parents

December 22, 1996|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,SUN STAFF

Froggy is back -- this time on parole.

The "gangster" version of the folk tale "Froggy Went A-Courtin' " is no longer banned from Baltimore County elementary school libraries but will be accessible only to parents and teachers to read with children.

School Superintendent Anthony G. Marchione accepted a recommendation Friday to overturn the ban on children's author Kevin O'Malley's satirical version of the Froggy story, which ends with the amphibian in a cell wearing prison stripes.

The recommendation, from Phyllis Bailey, associate superintendent for educational support services, includes changing the procedure for reviewing books that are the subject complaints.

O'Malley, 35, of Rodgers Forge praised Bailey's compromise, which he said, "balanced the desires of many people."

Bailey held a hearing Dec. 9 that included school officials, O'Malley and Israel Weitzman, the Pikesville parent whose complaint led to the ban.

O'Malley said he intended that the book be used by parents reading with their children. Bailey said her research on that point led her to concur with his position, while taking account of Weitzman's concerns in making her recommendation.

The book will be available to parents and teachers in the "professional library/parent resource section" of school libraries. It is available in public libraries.

Weitzman said he agreed with the recommendation and that it "makes sense" to put the book in the restricted section. "The parent is now the focus," he said, adding that "there should be input from all parties" to review book complaints.

A committee of education administrators voted unanimously to remove the book last spring after Weitzman complained that it was inappropriate for elementary school students because of the illustrations of Froggy's crime spree, though the story ends with him in prison.

Bailey recommended that when a book is reviewed, the committee include a parent, a teacher from the instructional level involved and a student, when secondary school items are reviewed.

She also said that "if additional information is needed," and "when possible" the school system should contact the author or publisher of a work before deciding whether to remove it. That is not now required and was not done in O'Malley's case.

Pub Date: 12/22/96

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