Committee to focus on classroom discussion

WINDER - A committee to determine what materials are age-appropriate for the classroom will not try to micro-manage teachers, school board members said, but will attempt to raise red flags about what might be sensitive topics.

The group was formed by the Barrow County Board of Education on Tuesday following complaints from two sets of parents that an essay comparing the killing of a pig in the William Golding novel "Lord of the Flies" to the rape of a woman was not an appropriate topic of conversation for a ninth- and 10th-grade honors English class.

The parents who made the complaint succeeded in having the E. L. Epstein essay, which appears in the back of the book, removed from the version of the novel that is studied in the school system.

Board Chairman Bill Bramlett said in the past, most mature topics in English classes were handled when students were approaching 18. As schools' curriculums get pushed back, he said, students are not as prepared to deal with the topics they are discussing.

"The educational levels of the students are advancing, but their maturity relating to the topics (is) not," he said. "A discussion with a sophomore is a little more ticklish than a discussion with a senior."

Bramlett said the school board does not intend to dictate what goes on in the classroom, but wants to make teachers aware of topics that could make their students uncomfortable.

The document will likely be vague, he said, and the final call for classroom conversation will be at each teacher's discretion.

The committee will have three school board representatives, one student each from Winder-Barrow and Apalachee high schools, one teacher from each high school, two system administrators and four parents from each high school. The Apalachee parents who made the complaint will be on the committee, Bramlett said.

Lynn Stevens, the District 5 representative, will chair the committee. She said she expects the group to come up with a recommendation by June, if not before.

The intent of the group, Bramlett said, is to make teachers keenly aware of the age of the students they are teaching.

"We're not trying to put handcuffs on everybody, to shackle them down," he said. "It will still be up to the teacher, we're just trying to raise some flags. I don't think you can etch something like that in stone."