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Final vote on Potter this week

State Board of Education hears request to ban books

From staff reports

ATLANTA - The state Board of Education is scheduled to vote Thursday on a Loganville mother's appeal of the Gwinnett Board of Education's decision to keep Harry Potter books on the shelves of a local elementary school.

Laura Mallory, whose children attend J.C. Magill Elementary School, presented her appeal in October to the state Board of Education. The Gwinnett board ruled unanimously in May that the best-selling series by J.K. Rowling could stay on the shelves.

Dana Tofig, the spokesman for the Georgia Department of Education, said the board typically does not discuss such appeals in public.

"The board received a recommendation from the hearing officer, discusses in executive session and then affirms the ruling in public," Tofig said.

The ruling will be posted online at http://www.gadoe.org/pea_board.aspx?PageReq=PEABoardDecisions.

During the appeal, Mallory cited studies showing that some children who have read Harry Potter books or seen movie adaptations have become interested in witchcraft to the point of attempting to cast spells. She said an organization called The Pagan Federation has attributed an increase in interest in the group among young people to publication of the books.

Mallory also referred to research by the American Academy of Pediatrics that found young children cannot readily distinguish fantasy from reality and try to imitate what they've read.

But Victoria Sweeny, the Gwinnett school board's lawyer, said the Potter books are clearly "fantasy fiction" and are kept in the fiction section of school libraries.

She said the books, some of which run longer than 700 pages, provide reading material rich in vocabulary with such wholesome themes as the triumph of good over evil and the power of a mother's love.

The Harry Potter series has been the most challenged of the 21st century, according to the American Library Association. Those who voted in the library association's online poll picked the series as their favorite controversial title.