Schools May Sue in Text Furor


The East Whittier School Board voted unanimously Monday night to explore the possibility of suing the publisher of a controversial series of elementary school reading texts for breach of contract.

"When you have a breach of contract, you cannot have that overlooked," board President Mary Ann Wojtsiak said to sustained cheering from a packed meeting. "The only way we can do it is to box up the books, send them back and demand the money back."

Holt, Rinehart & Winston of Canada Ltd., the publishers, however, said they will not refund the money, said Janet Hoyt, the district's curriculum coordinator.

More than 500 people crammed into the East Whittier Middle School auditorium for a heated debate over the texts, which include poems about monsters that bite off children's heads and about excrement-eating pigs.

Some parents say the books, entitled "Impressions," evoke devil worship and a curiosity about witchcraft. But educators say the series stimulates children's interest in literature. A similar debate raged last month in the Hacienda-La Puente Unified School District, where board members temporarily banned the texts while district officials study the issue.

Before Monday night's meeting, Hoyt said that many of the controversial stories were not in the sample editions district officials reviewed and approved last spring. Despite the mix-up, however, many of the educators in the 7,000-student district say they support keeping the texts.

In the East Whittier and Hacienda-La Puente school districts, many parents have said that the texts, which contain several stories and poems about Halloween and witches, are tainted and morbid.

A committee of parents and school officials told Monday's board meeting that 48 of about 700 stories and poems in the controversial series are "inappropriate."

"Our children's minds and well-being, indeed their psychological safety are at stake," said committee member Timothy Rich, whose children attend district schools.

But teachers union President John Fulford said censorship is "an evil cancer."

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