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Parents object, Florida school drops 'Curious Incident' novel

Parents object, Florida school drops 'Curious Incident' novel
A stage production of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” Florida parents have had the book removed from a summer reading list. (Joan Marcus / Boneau/Bryan-Brown)

A Tallahassee, Fla., high school dropped its summer reading assignment after parents complained about profanity in Mark Haddon's 2003 novel "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

The assignment was canceled by Lincoln High School Principal Allen Burch, who said he wanted to "give the opportunity for the parents to parent." Objections to the book centered around the language, which includes a few common profanities and "taking God's name in vain."

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One parent, Sue Gee, told the newspaper she wanted an alternative assignment for her daughter, who will be a junior at Lincoln this year. "I am not interested in having books banned. But to have that language and to take the name of Christ in vain – I don't go for that," she said. "As a Christian, and as a female, I was offended.... I know it's not realistic to pretend bad words don't exist, but it is my responsibility as a parent to make sure that my daughter knows what is right or wrong."

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Valerie Mindlin, a parent of Lincoln High alumni, disagreed. "I feel like it is second-guessing teachers," she said. "I never thought that the school would participate in an act of censorship. At what point do you let parents decide the curriculum for an entire school?"

"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," a mystery novel, is about a teenage boy who investigates the slaying of his neighbor's dog. The boy, who narrates the book, has a developmental disorder that isn't named in the novel, but appears to be on the autism spectrum.

The book was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and adapted into a hit play that's still running on Broadway. The production won five Tony Awards earlier this year, including best play, best director and best actor.

Defenders of the book say the decision to pull it as a summer reading assignment runs afoul of Leon County school district bylaws, which require challenged books to be discussed by a committee.

But Scotty Crowe, the school district's assistant superintendent, said the assignment wasn't part of the "true curriculum." "We take censorship very seriously," he said. "We use summer reading as a way to keep kids engaged over the summer. The book will remain on the media center shelves and is not being banned."

That could change, though, if Alva Striplin, a school board member, gets her way. "We've got a million books to choose from and this one should not be on the district approval list," Striplin said.

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