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Parents Want Angelou Book Banned
November 24, 2006

(AP) FOND DU LAC Some Fond du Lac parents have asked school officials to remove former U.S. poet laureate Maya Angelou's autobiography from the high school curriculum.

Students at Fond du Lac High School read "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" in sophomore advanced English classes.

But some parents have objected to passages that describe Angelou's rape and subsequent unwanted pregnancy. About 80 people attended a meeting at the school this week to discuss the book and the request to remove it.

School Superintendent Gregory Maass said the initial complaint came from one family.

"We had a mother and father and student who questioned the book," he said. "The high school provided the student with an alternative book."

The parents were not satisfied and asked for the book to be removed from the curriculum, Maass said.

School officials declined to name those parents or others who have asked for the book to be banned.

Fond du Lac High School Principal Mary Fran Merwin said parents, teachers, principals and at least two ministers spoke at the meeting, where no decision was made. She said the school has used the book for a decade.

"It is Angelou's own account of growing up," Merwin said. "It has a number of attributes, and it's a historically relevant story about a black woman growing up in the United States."

English teacher Joe Pentek also defended the book.

"I felt as a teacher of the book that the students were mature enough to handle the concepts of the book and look beyond the images portrayed to a deeper meaning and the effects of what Angelou went through," he said. "What better place to discuss adversity than in a classroom setting?"

School board president Gary Sharpe said the request was the first to remove a book in his eight years on the board. A school committee will make a decision on the book, and if parents remain unhappy, they can appeal to the superintendent and school board, he said.

Sharpe declined to comment on the book, saying he didn't want a conflict if the case came before the board.

"Certainly if it comes before the board I will read the book," he said. "What we want to do is educate children and they need to read to be educated and well-rounded. Whether this is one of those books that helps do that, I don't know."

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