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    District pulls 2 books on killers

    Hillsborough schools remove books on serial murderers after a complaint from a candidate for the County Commission.

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published April 9, 2002

    TAMPA -- A complaint by a parent has prompted the school district to remove two books on serial killers from the shelves of four Hillsborough public high schools.

    Tony Pawlisz, a candidate for the Hillsborough County Commission, complained to the Durant High School principal last week after his 16-year-old son brought home The A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers from the school library.

    "He was just intrigued by it," Pawlisz said.

    But what his sophomore son found intriguing in the book's 356 pages Pawlisz found appalling:

    Addresses to join fan clubs for serial killers. Graphic details of how the murderers killed their victims. Offers to buy serial murderer game cards. Profanity.

    Pawlisz said the book sensationalized and promoted murder.

    "When teenagers are so impressionable and with so many school shootings, this is the wrong thing to be teaching these kids," said Pawlisz, a 37-year-old telecom project manager.

    Pawlisz is one of four candidates for the District 4 Hillsborough County Commission seat, but said his actions were prompted only by his concerns as a parent.

    "This has nothing to do with politics or the First Amendment," he said. "It's about what's right for the kids."

    The book controversy follows another stirred by one of his opponents for the County Commission seat. County Commissioner Ronda Storms recently called for a criminal investigation and cancellation of the contract for a public access TV program after it began airing explicit footage of nude women.

    Her campaign landed her name and photograph in newspapers and television stations and prompted some, including Pawlisz, to claim she was benefiting from the free publicity.

    Storms said Monday she supports Pawlisz's effort to get the books reviewed. "I applaud him," she said. "We need more active parents like that."

    School officials have removed the book his son brought home and another, The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers, from Durant, King, East Bay and Gaither high schools.

    Hillsborough district spokesman Mark Hart said committees at each school will review the books' content and determine whether they should be permanently banned.

    He said the books, published in the 1990s, ended up on library shelves after approval by media specialists at the schools. They were used, not as textbooks, but as resources for students taking psychology and criminal justice classes.

    The school committees of teachers, parents and students will decide to what extent the books support the curriculum and weigh their merits against their alleged faults.

    "The question here is, post-Columbine: Is this an appropriate book for our students?" Hart said. "It may very well be the committees uphold the selections."

    The school committees are expected to make rulings within 10 days. If parents disagree with the decisions, they can appeal to a districtwide book committee.

    "I'm not saying this shouldn't be in the library or at Barnes and Noble," Pawlisz said. "They're giving out all the information you need to be a serial killer. There's no educational merit in this whatsoever."

    -- Melanie Ave can be reached at (813) 226-3400 or

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