Ecker weighing ban of teen book


Carroll County schools Superintendent Charles I. Ecker said Friday that he has been reading e-mail and letters from supporters and critics of his ban of a popular teen book but has not decided whether to return The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things to school libraries.

"I have responded to the people and organizations that have e-mailed or written letters," Ecker said. "I'm still reconsidering my decision."

Ecker, after hearing complaints from a student and a parent, ordered school librarians in mid-October to remove all copies of Carolyn Mackler's book about an overweight 15-year-old girl struggling to fit in at school and with her high-achieving family. He said he found its use of profanity and sexual references inappropriate.

"I did not think it was the type of thing middle school and high school students should be reading," he said when he banned the book.

Alarmed by Ecker's decision, school librarians met with him to discuss his removal of a book they felt was relevant for teenagers. In Carroll, the staff at each school's library determines which books to put on its shelves. Five of the county's seven high schools and seven of its nine middle schools had copies of the book.

A group of students at Winters Mill High launched a petition to protest the ban. As of last week, they had gathered more than 250 signatures.

The students were soon joined by a chorus of dissent from local and national groups that registered their objections in letters and e-mail to Ecker.

The New York-based National Coalition Against Censorship, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, the Association of American Publishers, PEN American Center, the First Amendment Project and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression also weighed in, urging the book's return to the schools' libraries.

The book, which chronicles the life of an overweight teenage girl, explores teen romance, self-mutilation, date rape and eating disorders.

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