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    Serial killer books to stay on shelves

    Review panels at two Hillsborough high schools let them remain on library shelves, to be read with teachers' approval.

    By MELANIE AVE, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published April 20, 2002

    TAMPA -- Review committees at two Hillsborough County high schools decided Friday that books on serial killers should remain on school shelves, despite a parent's objection to their violent content.

    After reading and reviewing The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers and The A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers, committees of parents, teachers and students at King and Durant high schools ruled the books appropriate for high school students.

    "The committees found they had some academic merit," said Mihrican Havens, Hillsborough's supervisor of library media services.

    But before students will be allowed to read the A to Z book at Durant or the Encyclopedia of Serial Killers at King, they must first obtain teacher approval. The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers at Durant will be returned to general circulation.

    Durant media specialist Carol Schaefer said the committee votes at her school were unanimous.

    "The A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers ... while reviewed as a 'sensationalist' format and not high in quality, was considered to be one of the few books that dealt with serial killers and the 'pop culture' that exists around them in our society," Schaefer wrote.

    King committee members wrote that the Encyclopedia of Serial Killers "would be a good resource book for sociology, criminology, or psychology to study human behavior and deviation from the accepted norms."

    The committees were convened after Valrico parent Tony Pawlisz, a candidate for the Hillsborough County Commission, challenged their presence in the schools. He found the books objectionable in light of growing incidents of school violence.

    Upset with the committees' decisions, Pawlisz said he will probably appeal to a district media review committee.

    "I want to make sure those books get out of there," said Pawlisz, a 37-year-old telecommunications project manager. "I just don't see them being suitable to being in the school system."

    Havens said she read both books and supported the decisions of the two committees. "I felt very strongly that it was a segment of our life ... from the beginning of time that needs to be among our information bank," she said.

    Pawlisz challenged the books after his 16-year-old son brought one of them home earlier this month. Both books were published in the 1990s and were put on library shelves with the approval of media specialists.

    The two books profile serial killers and detail their crimes and punishment.

    As soon as Pawlisz complained to Hillsborough school officials, the books were supposed to be stripped from four high schools. But librarians at East Bay and Gaither high schools said the books were either stolen or lost, leaving only Durant and King to do reviews.

    Pawlisz said the schools will now be responsible for any crime committed by a teen who has read the books.

    "I feel I've done as much as I could," he said. "If anything happens from this point on, the blood is on their hands."

    -- Melanie Ave can be reached at 226-3400 or

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