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Barrow County forms book committee

WINDER - An unnamed ad hoc committee held its first meeting Wednesday. The committee formed in response to questions raised last spring regarding an essay written by E.L. Epstein included within William Golding's 1954 book "Lord of the Flies."

Barrow Board of Education member Lynn Stevens chairs the 13-member committee made up of teachers, parents, principals, administrators and students.

Jenny Smith's daughter came home from Apalachee High School last April sickened and distraught. After reading "Lord of the Flies," an English Literature teacher had required the students write a paper comparing the book's pig-killing scene to rape. Smith, also a member of the committee, said she

didn't object to the book itself, but believed the teacher went overboard with her graphic discussion.

"We tried talking to the teacher and assistant and later, the department," Smith said. "Both of them handled our complaints mechanically. That's where it fell apart. They left me with no choice but to go before the school board."

Smith's efforts got the essay removed from the school's copies of "Lord of the Flies." She said she had no objections to the book itself.

"If the teacher had sent me home a book list to approve, I would have signed off on it," Smith said. "The book is fine. I wouldn't have known she would be writing an essay about rape. The reason you haven't heard from more parents is because they don't want to have to go through what I have been through."

The committee formed to find solutions to the question of what is appropriate. Members tossed around the ideas of age appropriateness as opposed to grade-level propriety.

"If some students don't pass the CRCT, then they are a year older than their classmates," said Jan Massingill, elementary curriculum director. "In high school, you can have all grade levels in one class. You have to consider the child's ability - special education, gifted, streetwise. Age or grade level doesn't define where they are in the world."

Barrow County Schools follow a state-mandated curriculum in selecting books and abide by standards set forth by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, executive curriculum director Claire Michael said.

"We have conferences to set goals, gather feedback, monitor and evaluate," she said.

School board member Connie Wehunt said the system has had to pull books in the past.

"There was one at the Apalachee library about father-daughter incest, and your all's response was, 'The state says it's OK,'" Wehunt said.

Before adjourning, Jean Elam, a language arts teacher at Winder-Barrow High School, suggested that a written statement circulated to teachers might curb future incidents.

"Perhaps if we have a statement in place requiring training and asking the teachers to be more sensitive to their students," Elam said.