Arundel school board keeps Angelou's book on shelves

October 14, 1998|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County public high school students will continue to read Maya Angelou's controversial account of growing up in the segregated South, the school board has decided in rejecting an Edgewater couple's claim that profanity and sex make the book unfit reading.

"We are not surprised; we thought this was going to happen," said Barry Taylor, who filed a complaint in November about the use of "Why the Caged Bird Sings" in freshman English classes. "If they had done anything different, they would not be supporting their teachers."

In a 13-page decision released yesterday, the eight board members said they "simply disagree" with Barry and Sharon Taylor's belief that the book in not appropriate for students.

"This board has concluded that the value of 'Caged Bird' outweighs the concerns expressed by Mr. and Mrs. Taylor," the board wrote.

School board member Paul Rudolph said he struggled with the issues the Taylors had raised.

"I was extremely bothered by the sex and the profanity in the book," he said. "But the value of the book is that it shows how a person who came from the most socially and economically disenfranchised background can succeed."

Janet Bury, another board member, said the value of the book lies in Angelou's prose. "It is a beautiful piece of literature," she said. "The profanity and sex don't bother me. But I don't know how I would feel if I were a parent."

Carol S. Parham, the county superintendent of schools, pulled the 1970 book, a National Book Award winner, from the curriculum after parents complained about sexually explicit passages. Parham submitted the book to a curriculum committee this year for review.

In April, the committee of students, teachers and administrators listened to testimony from the Taylors and from teachers who defended the book saying that it teaches "life's lessons" to students. After a daylong closed debate, it voted unanimously to keep the book in the classroom.

Pub Date: 10/14/98

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