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Rival group counters effort to remove school library books

By The Associated Press
09.07.05

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Aiming at keeping censorship out of Fayetteville public school libraries, a new group has formed that wants to keep books on the shelves, rather than taking certain volumes out of circulation without parental permission.

Working against the new group, Laurie Taylor, a mother of 12- and 13-year-old girls, has gathered a bunch of parents and others to pressure the school district into imposing the limitations.

A school board meeting Sept. 13 will deal with Taylor's claim that more than 50 books in school libraries are either too sexually explicit or promote homosexuality.

The new group opposing Taylor met on Sept. 4 to set a strategy for the meeting. Janet Titus took the lead role.

"This is a mainstream issue that mainstream citizens are concerned about," she said.

The group is working to start a Web site so school district voters can sign a petition urging the schools to "continue to select books and audiovisual materials according to the professional guidelines currently in place" and to leave the supervision of library material to professional personnel."

The district has a procedure in place to flag books that parents don't want their children to read, said Cassandra Barnett, a librarian at Fayetteville High School. The procedure employs a software program that keeps track of individual parental requests.

"We've always had an open-door policy," said Barnett, who has been a school librarian in the district for 29 years.

Eliminating whole bunches of books could be a logistical nightmare, the librarian said, but Barnett also said the schools were ready to respond to Taylor's requests.

"We've always done everything to accommodate parents," Barnett said. "All you have to do is come and ask."

About 60 parents met last month with Taylor and laid out a strategy for pressuring the school district. Since June, she has submitted a list of 54 books she finds objectionable, complaining that some promote homosexuality or are pornographic.

"I'm not on a witch hunt," Taylor said at the time, adding that they would follow a careful audit of the books in the libraries. "If this is not resolved, we as parents lose a fundamental right to parent our children."


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