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Teachers: Committee would deter jobseekers

WINDER - A group of teachers has suggested a committee formed to decide what topics are appropriate for classroom discussion would discourage teachers from wanting to work in Barrow County.

The committee, still being formed, was established by the Barrow County Board of Education last month 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.

Susan Mortensen, chairwoman of the Apalachee High School English Department, wrote a letter to the Board of Education asking that members reconsider their decisions to form the committee and remove the essay in question from the book.

"We think a policy that attempts to define appropriate discussion topics for various age groups will hamper the free exchange of ideas, send the message that teachers are not capable of making such judgments for themselves and perhaps even dissuade teachers from wanting to teach in Barrow County," she wrote.

Mortensen did not return several phone calls seeking comment, but said in the letter that she was writing on behalf of the entire Apalachee English department. The essay in question, by E. L. Epstein, was not required reading, she wrote.

Board of Education Chairman Bill Bramlett said the board would not reconsider the decision unless one of its members brought it up. The Board of Education met Tuesday night, but the "Lord of the Flies" matter was not on the agenda.

"I really think we balanced the best interests of all involved without trying to be volatile," Bramlett said. "I don't think we're going to reconsider forming a study committee. A study won't hurt anybody."

Bramlett said previously that the intent of the committee was not to micro-manage teachers, but to raise red flags about what might be sensitive topics. The school board does not intend to dictate what goes on in the classroom, he said, but wants to make teachers aware of topics that could make students uncomfortable. The document will likely be vague and the final decision on classroom conversations will be at each teacher's discretion.

The cost of purchasing new editions of "The Lord of the Flies," without the essay, will be less than $2,000, Bramlett said. The editions containing the text were tattered and torn, he said, and in need of replacement anyway.