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N.H. teacher in hot water again for using gay-themed books (15593)

15593News2005-04-01

N.H. teacher in hot water again for using gay-themed books

A New Ipswich, N.H., teacher who was fired a decade ago for assigning controversial gay-themed books to students is facing a fresh complaint. Penny Culliton was fired from Mascenic Regional High School in 1995 after assigning three such books to her English classes. She fought the decision and eventually was reinstated.

Now the school's curriculum committee is considering a parent's complaint about a book being used in Culliton's 10th-grade class. The parent maintains that Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block is disgusting. The book, which the author describes as including "contemporary fairy tales with an edge," has sexual themes, at least one gay character, and nontraditional families. Culliton had no comment regarding the complaint other than to note that the book has won several awards.

Principal Craig Mueller said the committee hopes to be able to resolve the complaint but that if the parent is not satisfied, she can appeal to the superintendent. If that fails to resolve the complaint, the matter goes to the school board.

In 1995, Culliton was fired from Mascenic for using three novels with gay themes: Maurice by E.M. Forster, The Education of Harriet Hatfield by May Sarton, and The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene. Culliton later won her job back in binding arbitration. "We hope we won't go that route this time," Mueller said.

Block's Web site (www.francescaliablock.com) describes her books as "postmodern, magic-realist tales for all ages" and "contemporary fairy tales with an edge." Block lives and writes in Los Angeles, where many of her stories take place. Dangerous Angels is included in a course on modern and contemporary multicultural literature. (AP)

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