Anti-Mormon? Sherlock Holmes yanked from reading list
After a parent complained that it gave a negative portrayal of her Mormon religion, the Albemarle County School Board voted unanimously in agreement with a committee's recommendation to remove A Study in Scarlet, the first of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes mysteries, from acceptable texts for teaching language arts to 6th grade readers.
With a 200-signature petition, over a dozen former Henley Middle School students appeared before the Board at its August 11 meeting to urge retention of the controversial story set in 19th century Utah.
The effort failed, as the committee agreed with complaining parent Brette Stephenson that the story contained "religious bias." Board member Diantha McKeel noted that since the school system seeks "age-appropriate" works of literature, the novel can still be taught at the 10th grade level.
Another speaker told the board that a child was recently asked on a school bus if the child had multiple moms, an apparent reference to the now officially banned Mormon practice of polygamy. The committee lamented the fact that some Mormon characters in the novel practice kidnapping, murder, and stalking.
"It could put a group of our students," said board member Eric Strucko, "in an unfair situation."
Later in the meeting, the Board voted to defer action on a plan to erect a cell phone tower whose transmitter would stand just 20 feet over the heads of second-graders at Stony Point Elementary School. A parent who works as a pathologist was among two speakers who noted that while the radiation emitted from such towers has not been proven dangerous, it has not been proven safe.
In other business, School Superintendent Pam Moran lamented the recent report showing that Albemarle joins nearly all Virginia school districts– 128 out of 132– in failing to make Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, on a set of federally mandated standards.
"I'm making a pretty strong statement to you tonight," Moran told the board as she blasted the guidelines that followed the 2001 education reform law as "onerous" and "unrealistic."
"Enough is enough," declared Moran, who joins a growing chorus seeking to overhaul the controversial law called No Child Left Behind.
Earlier in the day, the state Superintendent of Public Instruction, Patricia I. Wright, issued a press release saying that No Child Left behind has "outlived its usefulness."
Corrections: an early online version of this story attributed the how-many-mommies question to Stephenson when, in fact, it was another speaker. Also, slave-holding– although something reportedly present in the book– was not among the ills that the committee cited. So the reference has been stricken and replaced with "stalking." Also, prior to print publication, we removed reference to the state's Standards of Learning Program so as not to create confusion with the federal No Child Left Behind program.