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© St. Petersburg Times, published February 4, 2001
Editor: As a parent of four children, a classroom teacher and a former public library employee, I am outraged and saddened by the action taken by the Hernando County School Board in regard to the book Freaky Friday.
Board members have set a dangerous precedent for the remedy of book challenges to school collections. They have unilaterally decided to remove the book from the media center shelves across the county, while considering whether or not the book should remain available to students. This critical decision was made based on the complaint of one parent who presented sections of the text taken out of context. Additionally, Freaky Friday was removed prior to any board members having read the book.
First, let me say that I respect and defend Joan Anderson's right to monitor and choose books she finds appropriate for her child. However, Ms. Anderson's right of selection does not extend to my children or to the students in my classroom. She is, without question, in charge of the educational and moral development of her child. However, she is not the moral compass for all students and parents in Hernando County.
The American Association of School Librarians declares in a policy statement that "students and educators served by the school library media program have access to resources and services free of constraints resulting from personal, partisan, or doctrinal approval. School library media professionals resist efforts by individuals or groups to define what is appropriate for all students or teachers to read, view or hear." All professional educators most surely follow suit.
A committee of students, parents and professional educators was formed to read and evaluate Freaky Friday. Although the isolated passages cited caused concern, when they were evaluated within the context of the entire book, the committee deemed the book should remain accessible to students. In light of this, the fact that School Board members pulled the book from the shelves demonstrates a lack of trust in, and respect for, the decision of the committee. At the very least, this book should have remained on media center shelves while the School Board "considers the appeal" made by Ms. Anderson.
Members of the board will read Freaky Friday. I implore board members to also read the American Library Association's Library Bill of Rights which includes the "Freedom to Read" statement, before making any decisions. Even if board members agree with Ms. Anderson's opinion of the book, they must look beyond their personal opinions of the literature to the more far-reaching issues of censorship and intellectual freedom.
Libraries are essentially about access to varieties of material. For some children, the school media center is the only opportunity they have to peruse and self-select material based on their interests. Students deserve access to material chosen by professional media specialists. Parents deserve the right to guide and monitor the selections of their own children.
Do not deny my four daughters access to Freaky Friday because Ms. Anderson deems it unsuitable for her child.
It is indeed ironic that this challenge and the questionable response by the School Board come just before Hernando County Schools celebrate reading and readers during Literacy Week.
School Board members must look at this issue carefully and consider the implications of their final decision. If the board decides to remove Freaky Friday from the shelves of media centers across Hernando County, they must certainly consider this question: Which book will be next?
-- Marguerite J. King, Spring Hill
Editor: I recently have read the articles in the newspaper about the scooter accident. I don't feel as if it is any one person's fault. But I do feel that if the person who hit the young boy was paying close enough attention to the road, it would have been avoidable.
Recently, I went to the memorial site where young Stewart Abramowicz was struck by the car, and while my teenage daughter and I where there, we witnessed a lot of cars passing the site at great speed. The site is on Pinehurst Avenue, right in front of the park.
Now if you know you are going to be in an area where there are a lot of children at play, why insist on driving fast?
Regarding the comment made about blaming the children and the parents: If people in this community don't like the things the kids do, then why don't they try to change things? A suggestion might be to create a skate park for the scooters, bikers, skateboarders and inline skaters who like to enjoy themselves. I think the speed limit in populated areas where children are always at play should be 15 mph.
I also think there should be a lot more signs saying "Caution: Children at play."
This area has been up and coming with kids for the past 16 years. I have seen one thing after another created for kids and then shut down because of the older people. If you want to say the kids need to do the right thing, then I think this community needs to do the right thing by the children.
Even though I didn't know Stewart, I feel heartbroken for his family.
Something else I would like to make known is that at the funeral for Stewart, his mom spoke up and said she would like to get the park donated to our community in her son's name and made into a skate park for the kids.
-- Natalie Simpson, Spring Hill
Editor: The proposal to charge $3.50 a month for curbside recycling is absurd.
We need an incentive to recycle more, not a financial penalty. Instead of charging for recycling, why not offer a rubbish pickup rebate for recycling? So-and-so much for glass, more for cans, more for paper. And the county could even give us clearly marked individual recycling bins to make the job easier and to kick-start the venture.
We should be rewarded for our recycling efforts, not financially penalized for the job.
-- John A. Herbert, Spring Hill
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