School will keep Dr. Ruth book
Wednesday, February 05, 2003
By SUSAN LUNT CHILDRESS, Telegraph Staff ,

HOLLIS – Dr. Ruth, gathering dust or not, can stay on the shelf.

The Hollis/Brookline Cooperative School Board on Tuesday voted unanimously to accept a recommendation that Dr. Ruth Westheimer’s “Dr. Ruth Talks About Sex” can remain in circulation at the middle school.

Board members, who reviewed the book, called it “age-appropriate and informative.”

The recommendation to keep the book in circulation was made by the Library Review Committee, which is convened for the purpose of reconsidering a library book using school district protocol.

The committee comprises school officials, including the school principal, librarian and nurse, a School Board member and a community member.

Board member Steve Simons recused himself from the vote because he was on the Library Review Committee.

The book has been on the school’s shelves for a decade, but only recently sparked controversy because of a parent’s complaint. Ironically, in the 10 years the book has been there, no student has checked it out, the school’s librarian said, because kids don’t want to be seen with a book about sex.

Before the vote, a numbers of parents on both sides of the controversy presented arguments to the board. About 15 residents, mostly parents, attended the meeting. Two local physicians also spoke in favor of the book.

“This is your chance to show the youth in Hollis that you care that they get the facts instead of fallacy,” said Peggy Slater, a parent who led the opposition to the book.

She has said the book contains outdated information about sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS, that could be harmful to children. As a replacement to Westheimer’s book, Slater had offered to donate “Sex Q & A: Kids Questions – Parents’ Answers,” by the National Physicians Center.

Slater said Westheimer’s book encourages the use of pornography and is sexually explicit, exposing children too early to sexual material.

“You are our children’s only hope,” she told the board.

“The school is not the only hope,” countered board member Tim Devins. “It’s your job and my job too.”

The board listed six reasons why “Dr. Ruth Talks About Sex” should stay in the school’s library: it is age-appropriate, it does not promote pornography, it does not devalue women or children, it respects the difference between men and women in their relationships, it doesn’t promote sexual exploration, and it argues that protecting unfettered access to information is important.

“It’s a book, not part of our curriculum,” said Superintendent Ken DeBenedictis.

“I was swayed by the committee, the two physicians and the press that came about this issue,” said LuAnne Parodi, a board member.

Parents can let the school librarian know if they don’t want their children to check the book out, board member Marygrace DiGiacinto said.

Susan Lunt Childress can be reached at 249-3342.

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