By: Florida Today Re: Re: Attacks on learning list City makes attacks on learning list By

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By: Florida Today Re: Re: Attacks on learning list City makes attacks on learning list By Chris Evans Florida Today Palm Bay found its way into a national school censorship report this month because of a tiff over whether a book of Halloween poetry should be allowed in the Riviera Elementary School library. The report - "Attacks on the Freedom to Learn," released last week by the liberal advocacy group People for the American Way - lists a 1994 attempt by a Riviera parent to remove the book, "Halloween ABC," as one of 16 Florida incidents. The listing came as a surprise to Brevard County School District officials, who said the incident was the only one of its kind last year. "I didn't think it would be in, because (the parent's complaint) was resolved amicably," said Maureen Dugan, the district's media resource teacher. School District officials did not remove the Halloween book from the library, despite a complaint by parent Donna Wadsworth, whose 7-year-old son attends the school. Instead, they moved the book from the library's "easy" reading section to a poetry section, and they stripped it of its Halloween sticker. "The rationale was to satisfy the parent ... (and) not to have the book removed from the collection, and not to have one parent say what all students need to read," Dugan said. "Halloween ABC," by award-winning author Eve Merriam, was one of the nation's 10 most-challenged books last year, according to the advocacy group. The book presents 26 Halloween poems - one for each letter of the alphabet. The content is spooky and sometimes violent. "I," for example, refers to an icicle: "An icy stabbing so swiftly done, the victim scarcely felt it. The police are baffled: `Where's the weapon?' The sun shines down to melt it." Other poems depict demons summoning the devil (the letter D) and a pet that "finds the neighbors quite nutritious" (the letter P). Wadsworth, whose son was 6 when he brought the book home to read, said she never considered her request an attack against learning, as the national report alleges. She just thinks the book doesn't belong in an elementary school library. "It's talking about death, almost glorifying it," Wadsworth said Wednesday. "Any child could go in there and get it. "Somewhere along the line, you have to bring the line down on what's right and what's wrong. You can label it censorship if you want to, but you wouldn't let a child sit down in front of pornography." Wadsworth said she would have tried harder to remove the book, but she was under the impression that the district's response to her complaint was the best she would receive. District officials moved the book to the poetry sections after a special committee - including educators and a parent - reviewed the complaint and the book. The incident helped Florida rank 10th in the nation for challenges to library books, classroom materials and a broad range of school programs and policies during the 1994-95 school year, said Susan Glickman, director of People for the American Way's Florida office. "Florida continues to rank disturbingly high in this report," she said. "Parents and other concerned citizens must take the lead in supporting and defending the freedom to learn."

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