Ark., school board listened as numerous parents and
students gave their opinions on whether access to several
dozen library books should be limited on grounds that
they are sexually explicit or deal with homosexuality.
The board took no action after Tuesday night's session
and is to meet again Thursday, when it will hear from the
board's lawyer and school librarians. Tuesday's
meeting was limited to the 300-seat capacity of the
Fayetteville High School auditorium.
Laurie Taylor, a mother of 13- and 12-year-old
daughters, first raised the library issue in February.
Her daughters are now homeschooled, though she is
persisting in her effort to make Fayetteville schools
require parental approval before children can read the
books she finds offensive. "I don't want to ban
anything. I want to keep the books, all the books,"
said Taylor, who noted that she was surprised her
proposal was controversial. Taylor called the content of the
books at issue "pornographic and vile." "It's not OK
for my kids to access to this stuff," she said.
Many who spoke were in favor of free access to
books in the library. "Books are the epitome of life,"
said Fayetteville High School senior Monica Ramos, who
was in favor of open access to books on library shelves.
Erin Brothers presented board members a petition
signed by 300 high school students asking the board to
"affirm their right to read." The petition also asked
the board to put two students on all book review committees.
Ann Hanna, who has five grandchildren in
Fayetteville schools, said she was offended by
librarians at Harding University who attempted to control
her reading as a college freshman but said she has now
changed her thinking. "I see the wisdom in that now
because our children are so vulnerable to depression,"
Hanna said. "It's very important for us to have
guidelines to teach our children and grandchildren--my
generation has failed to stand for righteousness and purity."
Republican state senator Jim Holt, who is
running for lieutenant governor, had requested an
opinion from Atty. Gen. Mike Beebe on whether
content in the books ran afoul of Arkansas law. Beebe wrote
that he didn't have authority to pursue "the sort of
factual inquiry that such a determination entails."
Beebe said local prosecutors make decisions on whether
to file charges.
Fayetteville school superintendent Bobby New
said prosecutors in Arkansas would be unwise to charge
school administrators based on the content of books in
libraries. Fayetteville alone makes 317,000 books available
in its school libraries, he said. "It would tie up the
resources of the court.... We would find ourselves in
Arkansas being seen across the nation as wasting a lot
of valuable resources and judges' time," he said. New
said he trusts his librarians to make the right decisions on
available material. "These books may offend one group, but
not other groups," he said.
Fayetteville school board president Steve
Percival said the panel would work to find a solution
that all sides can live with. "Our obligation is to
marry all this together," Percival said. (AP)