- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 24, 2003

LITTLE ROCK (AP) A federal judge ordered Harry Potter books back onto an Arkansas school district's library shelves Tuesday, rejecting a school board's contention that tales of wizards and spells could harm students.
Ruling in favor of a fourth-grader's parents, U.S. District Judge Jimm Larry Hendren ordered the Cedarville School District to put the four books in J.K. Rowling's popular series back into general circulation.
The district's board drew wrath from national free-speech groups for its June decision to require students to obtain parental permission to check out the books. The 3-2 decision, which overruled a unanimous decision by the district's library committee, came after a parent complained about the books.
The Harry Potter books have been assailed by some Christian groups for their themes of witchcraft. The American Library Association said the books were the most frequently challenged of 2002, but rarely did those challenges lead to restrictions or bans.
Plaintiffs Billy and Mary Nell Counts said they feared their daughter, Dakota, would be stigmatized if she was identified as someone who read books that the district considered "evil."
First Amendment associations and children's author Judy Blume filed a brief in support of the couple last month. They claimed the Cedarville district was committing censorship and trampling on students' right to receive information.
"Everybody is just thrilled with the decision," said the plaintiffs' attorney, Brian Meadors.
The school district did not immediately return calls seeking comment. In depositions, the three board members who voted for the restrictions said they felt the Harry Potter books prompted children to disobey authority.
Scholastic, which publishes books for school markets, said its Harry Potter series teaches children about right and wrong.
"We're proud to publish the Harry Potter books," spokesman Judy Corman said. "We think they're about good and evil and we don't believe in censorship."
The books chronicle the fictional adventures of young, bespectacled Harry and his wizard pals at the Hogwarts magic school as they battle Harry's nemesis, the evil sorcerer Voldemort. More than 190 million copies of the novels have been printed in at least 55 languages.


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