- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 16, 2000

The Fairfax County (Va.) School Board will decide tonight whether to keep in an elementary school library a book in which a teacher insists a student have a secret abortion and another girl kills her father.
Kathy Stohr, the mother of an eighth-grade student, has complained about "Daughters of Eve," arguing it is not appropriate for the 12 middle schools and one elementary school that are among 26 school libraries that carry the book.
"I just don't see how anyone could read this book and think it's OK for middle school," she said.
But an ad hoc review committee made up of parents, administrators and school librarians voted 6-1 in December to keep the book in the libraries, and Superintendent Daniel A. Domenech agreed. Now the School Board will have the final say on what will be done with the book.
"Daughters of Eve" isn't on a reading list, but Mrs. Stohr's 13-year-old daughter, Leah, picked up the book at a Borders bookstore after seeing a video on the author, Lois Duncan, during reading class.
Mrs. Stohr noticed the book touted Mrs. Duncan as the author of "I Know What You Did Last Summer," which was made into an R-rated horror film, and decided to read the book her daughter brought home. She ended up returning it, finding it inappropriate.
In "Daughters of Eve," a teacher who is distraught at what she sees as a male-dominated world becomes an adviser to an exclusive club of high school girls, and she teaches the girls her views of the world. By the end of the novel, one girl has killed her father, an overweight girl has tried to commit suicide after a boy makes unwanted advances, and the teacher has tried to insist one club member have a secret abortion.
The conversation between the teacher and the girl, who is pregnant with her fiance's baby, contains the following exchange on page 207:
Student: "Abortion is such an ugly thing to think about. It's like murder."
Teacher: "It is not murder. It is like stopping something before it has a chance to begin. Consider this, Ann; every single month a woman's body produces an egg, which has the potential to become a human being. Every month that this egg is produced and not fertilized, it dies. Yet, I've never heard anyone refer to abstinence as 'murder.' Have you?"
Student: "Of course not."
Teacher: "Where does the difference lie?"
Student: "I don't know. When you put it that way, there doesn't seem to be much of a difference. I just feel that abortion is wrong. I've just been raised to think that way."
Teacher: "So have most of us. It's preached from the pulpit. Pregnancy and motherhood are the ultimate weapons men can use to keep women helpless and 'in their place.' In this case, you are going to be robbed of a wonderful future. In its way, that itself is a form of murder, isn't it? It's the murder of Ann Whitten, the artist."
Copies of the book had been checked out of school libraries at all levels 68 times last year as of Dec. 9, and 119 times the prior year. Six of those check-outs came at Sangster Elementary School, and in 1998 alone, two copies of the book were checked out of Glasgow Middle School 27 times.
When Mrs. Stohr found out "Daughters of Eve" was in a number of school libraries including Stone Middle School, where her daughter attends she challenged it, asking it be removed from all but high school libraries.
Her request was heard in December by the ad hoc review committee, which ruled the book was fine for middle schools and, by extension, elementary schools.
"Several middle schools in the county have sixth-graders, and sixth-graders are considered to be middle school students. When an elementary school includes sixth-graders, the school libraries need to include materials for those students as well," its report said.
The committee also decided the book's stereotypes were so outlandish children wouldn't take them as models for behavior.
"The majority of the committee felt that no student would believe the sponsor of the service group was giving appropriate or adequate advice," its report said.
School Board member Stuart Gibson, Hunter Mill District, agreed after having his eighth-grade daughter read the book and asking her if she or any of her friends would consider the advice from the teacher in the book good. His daughter said no.
Mr. Gibson said one parent's objection probably isn't enough to have a book removed from all libraries and said he will probably vote to keep the book on school library shelves.
He points to a scene 10 pages after the teacher's abortion discussion, when the girl asks her father for advice. The father tells her it is her choice, and that he will love her no matter what she decides.
"What a powerful message for a parent to send a child," Mr. Gibson said. He also points to the epilogue, three years later, in which the reader learns the girl decided to have the baby.
But Brett Cramer, a parent and sole dissenter on the committee, called its decision "unconscionable."
Mr. Cramer told The Washington Times he considers himself a liberal Democrat, but he couldn't agree with middle school students, much less elementary students, reading the book.
He wrote a strongly worded letter to the School Board, criticizing the review process and arguing that elementary and middle schools should "offer at least a modicum of safety and security from the real world and its human misery and depredations."
Mrs. Stohr said she's not the type to take on a crusade, but felt she had to take some action.
"Nothing is ever going to change for the good if people don't take the little steps to make it happen," she said. "It's fine if I take it out of my daughter's hands, but that doesn't help the thousands of other kids out there."
Two recent book challenges appealed to the School Board have been turned back. In both cases, the books were allowed to remain in libraries, although one was pulled from a required-reading list.

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