- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 23, 2005

HAGERSTOWN, Md. — Ray Bradbury, John Updike and William Saroyan are among the authors whose selected works some parents and clergy want banned from a sixth-grade reading list in Washington County public schools.

The short stories and poems are featured in the Junior Great Books, a series of supplemental reading materials for advanced learners that parent Debbie Rauer says contain profanity, violence and sexual innuendo inappropriate for children.

Mrs. Rauer said yesterday that she has collected nearly 200 signatures on petitions seeking removal of the Junior Great Books from sixth-grade classrooms throughout the county. She said she would file a formal complaint with the Board of Education this week.

Peggy Pugh, supervisor of secondary education, said the books are used by thousands of students across Maryland. She said parents in Washington County can preview the material in their children’s classes and request alternatives to texts that they find objectionable.

Mrs. Rauer, whose twins — Alli and Joel Bates — attend sixth grade in Clear Spring, said she had read nine of the 12 selections for this semester and found six objectionable. They included Mr. Bradbury’s story “The Veldt,” in which two children kill their parents, and Mr. Updike’s story “The Alligators,” a tale of youthful alienation.

“Most are very dark,” Mrs. Rauer said. “There’s lots of profanity, there’s violence, there’s a story that there’s like witchcraft — there’s just content that is not appropriate for 11-year-old children.”

The Rev. Dean Pryor, pastor of Grace Brethren Church in Hagerstown, told school board members and administrators at a get-acquainted meeting Tuesday night in Clear Spring that few parents would support keeping the material if they knew what it contained.

“We’re very concerned, very, very concerned about the curriculum of these books being allowed in the public-school system,” Mr. Pryor said, according to the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

The collection is published by the Chicago-based Great Books Foundation, which offers similar compilations for elementary-, high-school and other middle-school levels.

Miss Pugh and school system spokesman Carol Mowen said the books have been used in Washington County middle and high schools since the late 1990s. The school system adopted a version for elementary students within the past year, Miss Mowen said.

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