Source/Permission: Copyright, The Roanoke Times, republished by permission
Author: Paul Dellinger, Southwest Bureau
Publication Date: March 26, 1992
Summary: The article explores the viewpoints of several different stakeholders in the case, but spends a lot of time discussing how the complaints and demands of the challengers prompted responses from the school administration.
A CARROLL COUNTY teacher gets to keep her job, but not the book she had made available to her 11th-grade class. A radio evangelist succeeded in his effort to ban from the county high school a book he deemed inappropriate.
Carroll County’s school superintendent hoped a statement he released Wednesday might settle a fuss over a book that put a radio evangelist and an English teacher at odds.
But while his statement that the school system would be more responsive to community standards convinced parents to call off a protest planned for Friday, it did not satisfy the preacher or the teacher.
“It was not settled to my agreement, but I had to go along with it,” said radio evangelist J.B. Lineberry, who had demanded that Marion Goldwasser be fired for putting a book he deemed inappropriate on a supplementary reading list for her 11th-grade classes.
“We felt that we could not let our school be run by the group that makes the loudest noise,” Goldwasser said after learning of the statement. “It’s a concession to the squeaky wheels. . . . They’ve got everything they want.”
What Lineberry and his supporters got was a statement from Superintendent Oliver McBride saying the school system failed to take misgivings by some parents over classroom use of “The Floatplane Notebooks” all the way through the existing review process.
“The recent concern has raised our sensitivity that our families need to be made more aware that a process does exist for resolving these concerns. Further, it is recognized that our selection of materials continues to be conducted within the context of values which exist in our county,” he said.
Some parents were disturbed over use of Clyde Edgerton’s novel “The Floatplane Notebooks” as supplementary reading in two 11th-grade English classes at Carroll County High School because it contained explicit language and descriptions of sex in one chapter.
Wade Humphrey, a parent of one student, approached Lineberry, a Hillsville radio evangelist, about it after he complained to the school.
Lineberry began circulating a petition calling for the teacher to be fired. He said Wednesday he still wants that – and more.
“As far as the teacher being fired, we was pushing for four of them being fired,” he said.
Besides Goldwasser, Lineberry said he also wanted the dismissal of Principal Harold Golding, Assistant Principal Shelby Puckett and another teacher whose name he did not know but who he understood also had known the contents of the book.
“I didn’t want to give in at all, but I knowed that I was going to be standing out on a limb,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, I wanted the job done. I wanted the job done like I had set forth to do it.”
Goldwasser was not happy about the way things turned out, either. She and her husband, Mike, talked with McBride earlier Wednesday and expressed their concerns, she said.
She feared that McBride’s statement would have a chilling effect on what materials teachers would feel comfortable using in classes, “especially if we don’t get any more support from the superintendent than we have seen. I mean, this statement is so ambiguous.”
Goldwasser made it clear that no school officials had threatened her job.
“I never had that at all,” she said. “I’m not at all concerned about me, personally. I’m concerned about the educational climate the teachers are going to have to face in the coming years.”
She said she asked McBride if Edgerton’s book, which she also used as supplemental reading last year, could go through the process to see if the school system deemed it unsuitable. But McBride ruled out future use of the book, she said.
McBride said the statement “just acknowledges that we let it get off the pulley. . . . In the future, we will be certain to let our families know, be sure that they know, what the process is.”
The process would have been to bring the matter to McBride and then to the School Board if a parent was not satisfied with the resolution of the problem at the school administrative level.
Golding, the principal, said he had gotten only two complaints from parents – one in person and one by telephone. At that time, the students already had finished reading the book. He assured the parents it would not be used again and thought that was the end of the matter.
Humphrey said he later found that the classes still were discussing the book. He also found the students declined an offer to have the school buy back their copies, which they had bought themselves after choosing it from among three offered by Goldwasser for supplemental reading.
That was when Humphrey went to Lineberry instead of going up the school system’s chain of command.
Students say they like the novel. “The theme that humanity can survive turmoil and disaster is forgotten by the minister who refuses to look past what he deems `garbage,’ ” said Amy Higgins, a student at Carroll County.
“I don’t see anything wrong with the book for high school students,” said another student, Leighann Poe.
The book uses six first-person accounts to describe events in the lives of a rural North Carolina family from 1956 to 1971. One family member’s collection of metal to build a seaplane provides the title. Most of the language to which the parents objected comes in a chapter in which the narrator is serving in Vietnam. The sexual content stems from his concern about possibly having no sex life after losing two limbs in combat.
McBride said a syllabus might be made available at the beginning of each school year listing textbooks and books being considered for extra reading. Parents could express concerns before the books are introduced to a class. He said teachers had a role in choosing books, too.
“Our teachers have a privilege and a responsibility to help us with the selection of materials,” he said. “That is what they do, and that is what they do best.”
At the same time, he said, families should be able to be aware of the materials being used by their children “and express concerns if they have those.”
He said he had every confidence that those at the school involved in choosing the book followed the procedure, as it now exists, for supplemental materials.
“Our teachers are good teachers,” he said. “. . . And we have our families, and they’re good people too.”
Dellinger, P. “Book protest off but dispute isn’t.” The Roanoke Times, The (VA). 26 March 1992: A1. NewsBank. Accessed April 25, 2019. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/0EAEA289E6BAD9F0.