Board of education refuses to ban The Witches

Tuesday, June 16, 1998


The Dublin, Ohio, board of education refused to ban Roald Dahl's book The
Witches
from elementary school libraries and classrooms last week.


A group of parents had complained to school board officials earlier this year
that the book — which tells the story of a young boy and his grandmother
fighting off a band of witches — harms the self-esteem of impressionable
youngsters.


The parent who led the charge to ban the book, Kay Koepnick, requested it be
removed from her son's fourth-grade class at Riverside Elementary School. She
told The Columbus Dispatch: “I believe some of the excerpts [from] the
book are harmful to the self-esteem of children. I find this type of material
extremely objectionable and cannot understand why any educator, librarian or
parent would knowingly choose this type of reading material for their students
or children.”


The school superintendent proposed a compromise measure: keep the book in the
libraries but remove it from classroom use. However, the board voted 5-0 to
maintain the book in the libraries and voted 3-2 to also keep the book in the
classroom.


Koepnick told the paper she was “not angry, but disappointed” by the board's
decision.


Kathy Lowery, associate superintendent of the school board, said, “The board of education definitely saw
this as a victory against censorship.”


Bert Wiser, president of the school board, added, “This is a victory for the First
Amendment. One parent's views shouldn't be able to censor material that other
parents' children read.”


Joan Bertin, executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship,
applauded the vote. “The board members' action in this case is really
refreshing. I am always glad to hear of a success story. I find it troubling
that people would want to ban such an interesting, phantasmagoric book,” she said.


Bertin says the book is a “favorite” among censors, often for allegedly
promoting the occult and the wicca religion. However, she describes the book as
a “classic.”


The Witches has been used successfully in many schools. Children
simply like to read Dahl's books,” she said.