- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 14, 2001

The Fairfax County (Va.) School Board voted last night to keep in three public school libraries a book that some parents have objected to as "pornographic."

A majority of School Board members sided with Superintendent Daniel A. Domenech's recommendation that "Druids," by Morgan Llewelyn, be retained in high school libraries for research.

A motion to take the book out of high school libraries failed by an 8-3 vote with one member absent. A second vote to keep the book out of middle schools passed on a 9-2 vote.

Parents criticized the book because of its explicit descriptions of oral sex and a scene where a character expresses a desire to rape.

Yesterday's special board meeting was convened after parent Kathy Stohr, a Centreville resident, filed an appeal to the School Board after a review committee voted 9-0 in December to retain "Druids" in school libraries.

The book is on the shelves of three high school libraries West Springfield, Lake Braddock and Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.

Hughes Middle School recently decided to take the book off its shelves, while W.T. Woodson High School lost its copy and decided not to replace it.

Student board member Christopher Giovarelli said he had shown "Druids" to other students and they were shocked by some of the words.

"We suspend students for speaking in vulgar terms but then offer such books in our libraries," said Christopher, who recommended removal of the book.

A report from the committee that reviewed the book said it had "many redeeming themes," and that the references to "sex magic" one of the points Mrs. Stohr objected to were a minor element.

Last year, Alice and Richard Ess, whose daughter is a junior at Thomas Jefferson, had demanded an apology from Mr. Domenech after their daughter, Megan, was given the book as part of an English class at Thomas Jefferson.

The Esses did not file a challenge, available under county procedures, to have the book taken off the list because, they say, the process was too "bureaucratic."

In trying to remove a book, a parent must file a formal challenge with the public schools system. A review committee comprised of teachers, parents and students discusses the book for three sessions, then votes on whether the schools should retain the book. If the committee votes to keep the book, the parent can file an appeal with the School Board.

The last time the School Board decided on a book was last March when it voted to remove "Daughters of Eve," by Lois Duncan, from elementary and middle schools. The board has never voted to remove a book from all county schools.

School Board member Mychele Brickner, who voted against keeping "Druids" in the libraries, said the book was not appropriate reading for children, even though high school children could be 17- and 18-year-olds.

"I have an 18-year-old son and I wouldn't give him this book," she said.

She added that schools should have guidelines for librarians and teachers to ensure that objectionable material did not end up in students' hands.

Member Rita Thompson, who also voted against the book, said: "There are so many good books that one can't possibly read in a lifetime. We don't need to give children material that is explicit and arousing."

She said that while 90 percent of "Druids" had "good information," the remaining 10 percent "really distorts the picture and is not appropriate for our children."

However, not everyone found the book objectionable at the high school level. West Springfield Principal David Smith said he had scanned through the book. "A work of art has to be judged in its entirety, and if you look at this book it does have a place in a high school library," he said.

He said he also saw how some parents might object to books that contain sexual material, but added that there could be many other parents who had no objections.

Board member Ernestine Hastie voted to keep the book. "The more we take books out of libraries, the more we limit the information our students have," she said.

Mrs. Stohr contends she does not want to monitor every book her daughter brings home.

"School libraries should be held to different standards than public libraries. Pornography has no place in our curriculum," she said.

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