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Barrow County schools ban 'Lord of the Flies' essay

WINDER - When her daughter came home from school physically ill after an English class discussion compared a scene in the book "Lord of the Flies" to rape, Jenny Smith approached the teacher.

A ninth- and 10th-grade honors English class isn't the place for that sort of conversation, Smith said. But the Apalachee High School teacher told her that as long as an essay by E. L. Epstein appeared in the back of the book, she would teach it that way.

So Smith set out to have the essay removed.

She was successful Tuesday, when the Barrow County Board of Education voted to get rid of the essay - either by purchasing new copies of William Golding's 1954 book that tells the story of a group of school boys who have been stranded on a desert island, or by ripping them out of copies the district already owned.

"The essay itself, if you read it, it does not take it into detail, it does not use the word rape," Smith said. "It intimates sexual intercourse."

On their own, Smith said, she has no problem at all with the book or the essay, which compares a violent scene in which boys kill a pig to a sexual scenario. But an assignment given by the teacher, asking students to visualize the comparison by placing their own faces onto the face of the pig, left her cold.

"Many of them found it extremely disturbing," she said. "I'm very fortunate that my daughter discusses stuff that disturbs her with me. It made her physically ill. She was shaking and nauseated. It's a very sensitive topic for children of that age."

Roy Morgan, an assistant superintendent in the school system, said the matter first went to the teacher, then to Apalachee High School's principal and a curriculum committee which declined to remove the essay. Principal Dennis Clarke did not return a phone call seeking comment.

From there, Smith and her husband - along with another couple - took their complaint to the district's media committee, which met March 6. The committee had three choices: to continue using the book with the essay, to continue using the book but allow students to read an alternate novel or to use an alternate edition that did not contain the essay.

Fourteen of the committee's 15 members voted to continue using the book, but give students the option of reading another novel and not participating in class discussion, Morgan said. Parents also would have been warned about the sensitive nature of the

material.

Smith said that solution was not satisfactory and took the matter before the Board of Education.

"I know a lot of people are concerned that I'm meddling with the way teachers teach, but that's not my intent," Smith said. "There are lines that you cross and lines that you do not cross."

The school board will also create a committee to review how sensitive material is presented, Morgan said.

The teacher who presented the material is a favorite in the school, Smith said, and gets her students excited about literature. Smith said the teacher has taught "Lord of the Flies" before, though never with this essay, and was trying to teach her students how to analyze symbolism.

"I think she just made a mistake," Smith said. "The teacher is one of the top teachers. Most kids think that."