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.

Read more on: mormonismreligious bias


Are these children also forbidden from reading the Bible ?

"The committee lamented the fact that some Mormon characters practice kidnapping, murder, and slave-holding. "

Just ONE person caused this. There is something wrong when one person can change the status of a book; how about you let the voters or all school parents vote on it then it would reflect how the majority feel?

Sounds like a boring book anyway. So many of the books on school reading lists are boring, old, and suck in general. And I'm not just talking the talk, I walked the walked. Back in highschool I used to refuse to read books that sounded old and dull to me. I wasn't going to waste my time reading what *they* wanted me to read. I'd bring my own books and read what *I* wanted to read in class, and then I'd take take the test on their books and still manage to pass. But that's because I could remember things I'd hear in the background during class discussions, enough to get me a C. For a book I never actually read. :D It was awesome. I did that a lot in school in general though. I wasn't into conforming to curriculums.

ooh, how hip and noncomformist :|

I concur. ;)

Yep, pretty sad when one parent can complain and a book, a fictional story nonetheless, can be banned. I'm sure the parent is quite happy with themselves, but this creates a bad precedent. It's too bad the school board's "experts" caved in to this person. One has to wonder if the child of this parent will now be harassed in school thanks to their over-bearing parent - I sure hope he/she doesn't have to pay the price for their parent's ignorance.

It is pathetic that the school board removed the book from the 6th grade curriculum, although I suppose we can be consoled with the fact that it's still in the library and can be taught at the high school level. Would they ban Huck Finn, too? Bias is a reality, and it's better to give kids a forum to talk about it. They are not as impressionable and delicate as parents think they are--I mean, if parents think their upbringing practices can be undone by one book, then there are some major problems at home. Schools really should not bend to the parents like this--I think it's one reason schools have declined.

Frankly, most religions have some far-out beliefs and some past practices that are nothing to be proud of. If you are going to follow a religion that says you get your own planet when you die, like the Mormons believe, you really can't be too prickly when people think you are sort of weird and have a generally negative impression of your religion. I could say the same about some of the wacky beliefs of certain sects of Christians, but I don't want to start WW3.

You have got to be kidding. we have taken politically correct way to far. I am half blood Monacan Indian. My god, the way we are portrayed, BUT, first amendment says we can write what we like. and i figure, we all learn from things that aren't perfect. so girl, grow up and see the real world, mama, shame on you for pulling the wool over your daughters eyes. It will hurt her down the road.

Has anyone noticed what these kids watch on TV these days ?

I think that the new law should be called "Smack the child's behind"

Yea, they used "petitions" to ban books in 1930's Germany too.

Then they burned them.

This is embarrassing for CVL. Makes the city look like a bunch of backward rubes.

deleted by moderator

Wow, this is sad.

I grew up in Albemarle County, and went to Henley and Western Albemarle. I always wished I could have sent my kids to school there, but now I'm glad they're somewhere else.

While Charlottesville/Albemarle has always been a bastion of liberals, I can't believe how over the top PC it has become.

Leaving all the PC BS aside, people, do a little research about the LDS. It's a cult. Joseph Smith was a con-artist. He was arrested for " glass looking" three times prior to meeting the Angel Maroni and being given the golden tablets which led him to found the Mormon religion. Mind you, the angel also gave him special spectacles so he could translate the tablets. Sadly, he broke those, so he had to use his "seer stone" to continue to translate what the tablets said.

I wish the other people who voted to ban this book had done their due diligence, and some research of the topic about which one of our greatest national treasures wrote. Instead, it appears that, as usual, voters didn't want to offend anyone, and were sheep.

Check it out, people. Do some research about the LDS. A good place to start is "Under the Banner of Heaven" by Jon Krakauer. Educate yourselves.

Offend someone? So sorry, cry me a river.

The parents complaining about these books in the school are weak and pathetic. Real, committed parents home school. No outside influences. Make your child the YOU that you wish you could be. Oh, and for fun time: Pageants.

Removing a book from a reading list is NOT the same as banning a book, so stop referring to the school board's action as banning, burning, prohibiting, etc. This really isn't that drastic. Reading lists change in different school districts for different reasons all the time. This change is noteworthy for the impetus (which I happen to agree with), and nothing more. Finding historical inaccuracies and negative stereotyping regarding Mormons in this story is like finding water in the ocean. It depicts them as abusers, kidnappers, and murderers. Replace "Mormons" with "Jews" and see if people still think it's okay as an INTRODUCTION to the MYSTERY genre for 6TH GRADERS!!

It truly offends ME that someone that is offended by what is written in a fictional book offends their religious does that mean that this person can be pulled from the county of Albemarle due to officals being "politically correct" to make ME happy? America has gotten so worried about "offending" anyone that we have forgotten what is really important. I am also "offended" that the school board apparently has a great lack of a backbone...does that mean they get "pulled"? Sorry, off the soap box now.

There is something everyday is everyone's life that can be "offensive" or at least exaggerated out to be claimed as offensive. People need to grow up and stop acting like babies. This is like crying wolf. Save the claims for when something is truly abhorrent. As it is now, someone like this person making the stink about Sherlock Holmes gets their eyes rolled at.


The LDS church sends tens of thousands of missionaries out each year to distribute a book proclaiming that the ancestors of the indigenous peoples of the Americas were so wicked and disobedient that God cursed them with dark skin, given that dark skin is loathesome.

Perhaps this annoying parent should call for a ban on the distribution of the Book of Mormon instead. It would be infinitely more appropriate.

Here is what two Mormons wrote on a local TV website about 6 weeks ago on the Sherlock Homes book the county school board removed from 6th-grade reading list:

Blair Location: Utah on Jun 28, 2011 at 11:17 AM
"I do not live in the area, but I am a Mormon who would like to voice my admiration for the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Sherlock Holmes is a classic character, still deserving our attention. I've recently read "A Study in Scarlet," and while its depiction of Mormonism is wildly off-base, I still believe the book is still highly entertaining. As a Mormon I actually chuckled several times at the depiction of Mormons, I enjoyed it. Granted, it would be nice if the teachers gave some background to make sure kids have a better understanding of the conditions of the period, but in this way students could take the opportunity to learn about how people with different beliefs have been depicted in popular literature in the past."

Kent Larsen Location: New York City on Jun 28, 2011 at 11:03 AM
"As an active and heavily involved Mormon, I'm deeply embarrassed by this action. Hiding the misunderstandings of Arthur Conan Doyle and others who wrote about Mormonism is not a useful approach to changing perceptions of Mormonism. To the contrary, instead it makes Mormonism look like something secretive. Yes, Conan Doyle gets most of what he writes about Mormonism wrong. But the book is still a good read, and could give a good teacher the opportunity to talk about prejudice in writing. Lets not hide materials from students just because we think they might get incorrect ideas. Instead, lets teach children to think critically about what they read, and help them to learn to discern the difference between truth and error."

County school leaders TALK about critical thinking, but apparently they don't really want much, if any of it, to take place.

On another note, county school superintendent Pam Moran is now, finally, a decade after its passage, saying that the No Child Left Behind legislation is "onerous" and unrealistic." Where has she been all this time? Virtually everybody who has studied NCLB or given it any serious thought, knew long ago that its emphasis on standardized testing would narrow the curriculum dramatically, and its 100 percent proficiency requirement was impossible to achieve. Most critically reflective educators knew NCLB was based on a big lie about public education and was a "reform" that would make public schooling worse, not better. Yet Moran endorsed it, promoted it and bought expensive software (SchoolNet, which was a disaster) to track student test scores. Is Moran just becoming aware that NCLB is unworkable? Has she just figured out that NCLB was a stupid idea? Did it really take her ten years to think this through?

Or, now that the county is caught up in NCLB's untenable requirements, is Moran playing politics, and "leading" from behind, as is her nature?

who cares about mormons anyway? this is albemarle/charlottsvile va. what do we care? its not like they could be
president or anything....whatever...

I gues The Hunchback is next.

So the School board has ruled that the sixth graders that they teach are too stupid to understand context, fiction etc.....

If that is the case lets get rid of Tom Sawyer. Huck Finn and anything to with Abraham Lincoln since he was quoted as saying that blacks and whites could not be assimilated

At least the School Board made national news with this idioacy.

I wonder what would have happened if the Sherlock Holmes story assigned had been "The Five Orange Pips" where the bad guys were members of the Ku Klux Klan and a KKK member showed up at the School Board meeting to complain that the book was unsuitable.
And I don't imagine a Nazi parent would like it if The Diary of Anne Frank were assigned.
Whats left, go back to Dick and Jane books? OOps, then someone would that those depicted gender stereotypes and were lacking in racial and cultural diversity.
If an individual parent asked that his or her child be exempted from reading a particular book in 6th grade for moral ore religious reasons, thats one thing. But to demand that no other sixth-graders be allowed to read the book is unacceptable.

What does the rest of the reading list look like?

If they would like to see what happens when you start banning books of any type, and not leave it up to the parents, check out "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich"

so why couldn't the parent's wishes be accomodated by allowing that child to read a different book? why take the book away from all children? looking at the reading lists in the county - there are so many badly written trashy books with poor grammar on the lists - why take a decent book off the list? And if the list is open to debate, I have a few opinions too. b/c I'd like my child(ren) shielded from poor writing.

"To limit the press is to insult a nation; to prohibit reading of certain books is to declare the inhabitants to be either fools or slaves."
~ Claude Adrien Helvetius

Has anyone noticed that the book in question doesn't seem to show up on any "banned books" lists? Ever wonder why? Simply because it's not that great of a book and teachers in most states (apparently including all but one teacher in Virginia) have the common sense to realize this is not a book that belongs on required reading lists for 11 year-olds. It explicitly and directly and wrongly portrays all members of one minority group as evil, murderous, horrible people. The book was not used for teaching about bigotry and tolerance. It was used for introducing the genre of mystery stories. How would you like your 11 year old to have to sit in a class with a room full of kids who have just read a book that viciously attacks your child's religion, ethnicity, or disability? We are a civil society and bullying is not allowed--by students or by teachers. Pick a different Sherlock Holmes book. A book that singles out one religion for derogatory treatment is no more appropriate for public school as one that overtly promotes one specific religion. Note: The book was not banned or forbidden, just taken off the required reading list. The only surprise is that it was ever put on the required reading list and that it took so long to take it off.

This is stupid! This book was removed due to one parent's complaint. Yes, but we don't want kids to get the wrong idea about Mormons! Then explain to them about bias and context! But then maybe today's kids are too stupid to understand. But it's more like adults want to coddle them too much. Explain things to them? No, that's too much work, let's just remove the book.

to complete the story, I do hope they burn the books..................

the best way to get a child to read a book is to ban it

Not sure I really get it- doesn't surprise anyone I am sure- but an 11 yr old isn't going to read a Sherlock Homes book anyway

HarryD - after thought, I have to agree with you...the violent video games are much more entertaining.