Source/Permission: Copyright, The Roanoke Times, republished by permission
Author: Paul Dellinger, Southwest Bureau
Publication Date: March 28, 1992
Summary: The article chronicles the responses of school administrators from surrounding districts that were asked to comment on the case. While the responses vary, most administrators are either reluctant to comment or bring up district policy in their answers.
HILLSVILLE – School Superintendents from various localities in Western Virginia declined to second-guess Carroll County Superintendent Oliver McBride and his School Board’s decision to ban a book.
The controversy began when a parent who had complained about language and sexual content in Clyde Edgerton’s “The Floatplane Notebooks” to Carroll County High School Principal Harold Golding then went to an evangelist with his objectives. The book was being taught in two 11th-grade English classes.
J.B. Lineberry, the evangelist, argues against the book on his radio show. He also circulated a petition, along with copies of the six offending pages, calling for teacher Marion Goldwasser’s dismissal. He had organized a demonstration set for Friday at the school.
But the parents who had been behind him said they were satisfied with the school officials’ statement and agreement to ban the book from county classrooms. The demonstration was canceled.
Would any other superintendents have reacted any differently?
“I cannot comment on that at all,” said one. “I am not going to touch that one,” said another.
George Stainback is school superintendent in Washington County, where a group of parents objected more than a decade ago to a textbook series called “Responding.” The parents said the series contained irreligious, disrespectful and sexual material. The objections at that time spread to Carroll County. The books were eventually removed.
That was long before Stainback came to Washington County. He said a process now is in place involving a committee of teachers and parents, who review any material that anyone questions. The superintendent is able to give advice to the committee.
In Wythe County, Superintendent Jim Vaught said, anyone who objected would go through the school principal and “we would take it from there.”
In the Roanoke Valley, superintendents declined to say whether they would have handled the situation differently.
Roanoke County Superintendent Bayes Wilson said he’s never had to deal with a situation like the one in Carroll County. Usually, if a parent had had a complaint about a book, it is handled according to School Board procedure.
That procedure is similar in Roanoke County, Roanoke and Salem.
If parents have a problem with a certain book, they can handle it quietly through the teacher or school principal. Or they can make a formal complaint to the school and ask that their child not be required to read that book.
Roanoke Superintendent Frank Tota said that the student will be given a different book to read – one that satisfies the parent and the teacher. However, the parent can’t request that an entire class read a different book.
What may be controversial for one person may not be for another, he said. “Communities have different feelings about different things.”
Most class and library books come from a lost approved by the School Board and state or from a national library list, Tota said.
Salem Superintendent Wayne Tripp said the issue is a difficult one for superintendents, who must satisfy both parents and teachers.
“I think that we have to respect a parent’s right to provide a sheltered upbringing to their child if they choose to,” Tripp said. “I don’t think you jump out there and get ride of the book, necessarily. But . . .”
Tripp also said the media have been hard on McBride.
“He’s caught in a difficult situation,” Tripp said. “If there’s a man of principle and integrity, it’s Oliver McBride.”
Carroll school officials tried to quiet parents’ protests by issuing a statement promising to be more careful in the future.
The statement acknowledged the school system’s responsibility to be sensitive to community concerns over classroom materials, and that the concern raised by two parents over this book had not been followed all the way through the existing process.
It said the issue had “raised our sensitivity that our families need to be made more aware that a process does exist for resolving these concerns.”
Staff writer Neal Thompson contributed to this story.
Dellinger, P. “Book ban a sticky situation, school chiefs say.” The Roanoke Times, The (VA). 28 March 1992: B-1. NewsBank. Accessed April 25, 2019. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/0EAEA28AAE727DE5.