School district issues ban on three books

Thursday, August 15, 2002

WEBB CITY, Mo. -- A southwest Missouri school district compromised by banning three books and limiting access to three others in a series that uses an adolescent girl named Alice to explore the issues of growth, development and sexuality.

The Webb City school board voted Tuesday to remove "Achingly Alice," "Alice in Lace" and "The Grooming of Alice" from the elementary school library.

The books in the popular series had previously been available to fifth- and sixth-grade students.

Three other titles in the series will be available only to sixth-grade students with parental permission.

The changes take effect when classes begin Aug. 21.

The controversy over the books by award-winning author Phyllis Reynolds Naylor began in April when some parents questioned whether they should be offered.

The board voted in June to ban the books even though board members hadn't read them.

Members later rescinded that vote and decided to read the books before taking action.

A six-teacher committee recommended that the books not be banned.

"A lot of name-calling has gone on ... and remarks about people's (commitment to) religion," Superintendent Ron Lankford said.

Lankford acknowledged that some residents questioned his leadership abilities amid the controversy.

In "Achingly Alice," the eighth-grader grapples with lies, loss, loyalty and sexual awakening as she worries about what to wear to a Valentine's Day dance. She longs for someone to talk with about her changing body.

"Alice in Lace" has her eighth-grade health class exploring life-changing issues of from shoplifting to pregnancy and how much weddings cost.

Alice spends the summer between eighth and ninth grades thinking about getting in shape in "Grooming Alice." Her relationships with her father, brother and friends are challenged, as she explores the issues of body image, sex and death.

Resident Charles Moore, who was among 50 citizens in attendance Tuesday night, said he objected to the books on moral grounds.

"God tells us some of the things in these books is an abomination, like homosexuality and certain acts between men and women," he said.

Board member Terry James said he did not want to ban the books because he believes schools should encourage "people who think for themselves."

Fellow board member David Collard voted to ban all the books, saying they advocate toleration or acceptance of immorality.

"I feel the writer writes a very credible character to get you interested, and then she writes her agenda," Collard said.

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