Tuesday, July 10, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

School Board to hear mother's request to ban books on homosexuality, abortion

Laura Lopez wants dozens of books removed from two Palm Beach County high school libraries because the contents address homosexuality, abortion and atheism.

"Those books should never be in the schools for kids to see," Lopez, a mother of three from west of West Palm Beach, said Monday.

Following Superintendent Art Johnson's refusal in March to remove the books, the Palm Beach County School Board on Wednesday will hold a rare hearing on the book challenge.

The board set aside 15 minutes for Lopez's appeal, which she's entitled to under school district procedures.

County schools receive a Citizen's Request for Reconsideration of Instructional Materials an average of three or four times each year, said Meezie Pierce, director of K-12 Instructional Materials and Library Media Services.

These requests are always resolved by the schools, making Lopez's hearing at the School Board highly unusual.

Lopez did not attend December and January meetings of committees that reviewed and rejected her challenges at Royal Palm Beach High School and Alexander W. Dreyfoos Jr. School of the Arts in West Palm Beach. Two of her children are incoming sophomores at Royal Palm Beach; one used to attend Dreyfoos. Lopez's youngest child is entering the fourth grade.

Dreyfoos Principal Ellen Van Arsdale, in a January letter to Lopez, listed four reasons for the committee's denial. Cited were Florida education standards that students examine "a literary selection from several critical perspectives," and a portion from a national Library Bill of Rights that "libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues."

Two of the books that Lopez challenged are: Sexual Values: Opposing Viewpoints by Charles P. Cozic and Abortion: Opposing Viewpoints by Tamara L. Roleff.

"The Committee believes topics of abortion, atheism and homosexuality are social issues that high school students encounter in the media and in some situations within their families and social networks, such as in debate tournaments throughout the School District," Van Arsdale wrote.

Rand Hoch, president and founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, said he's pleased to see the district take a strong stand against censorship.

"She [Lopez] has been repeatedly turned down based on the principle that access to a wide range of information for students is a good thing," said Hoch, whose nongovernmental gay rights group watches school issues.

Lopez, in a January letter to Johnson, wrote, "I know that the Constitution says freedom of speech but what about my freedom as a parent to not want [my children] to read about abortion and homosexuality in their school library."

Lopez, who said she is a member of Christ Fellowship Church, filled out a separate request for each objectionable book. She cited biblical passages and called for teaching religion and allowing prayer in public schools.