10 December 2002

Witch Baby Committee Statement

Witch Baby, copyright 1991 was written by Francesca Block. She is well known as the author of books with homosexual themes, actions and situations.

We challenged this book because it has a major subplot with two characters in a homosexual relationship. They both live with Witch Baby’s family. Witch Baby stows away in their car when they go on a long vacation, talks to one of their mom’s about their relationship and tells her that they sleep together. It is not known who is the father of Witch Baby’s sister. The book says that her mom wanted a baby and decided to have one. Nobody knows if the father is one of the two homosexuals or Secret Agent Lover Man, who is also Witch Baby’s father, but by another woman who belongs to a nutty Jane Mansfield fan club.

The homosexual relationship is only presented in a 100% positive and approving way. The mom of the one of homosexuals objects when hearing about his relationship but with help from Witch Baby, and after talking to her acupuncturist, crystal healer and sand-tray therapist and thinking about things, realizes that she was only upset because her “femininity felt threatened.”

We requested in our challenge that members of the ALA and NEA not sit on this committee. This was refused in the letter sent to us calling this meeting. We protest this decision. Official positions and policies of organizations are important to consider in order to achieve non-discriminatory procedures and due process. A member of the KKK, NRA or NRL would not be allowed to sit on the jury of many cases solely due to their organization’s stated and known positions about certain subjects, notwithstanding any statements about how the individuals would follow the laws or regulations. We ask that the documentation for this Witch Baby review committee include a notation as to who are members of the ALA or NEA.

In FCPS homosexuality is prohibited as an FLE topic for ES and in MS questions about homosexuality may only be answered in the context of HIV disease prevention education. For FLE class parents are sent an opt-out form. To have materials related to the topic of homosexuality outside of FLE, such as Witch Baby, in the school library, where children are sent when they opt-out of FLE, is contradictory.

It is important to us to know what homosexual themes and situations, if any, are allowed in ES and MS books by FCPS. Recently we have heard the school system has been communicating with outside groups who want to donate homosexual themed books such as Witch Baby. This and the recent proposed language change to “sexual orientation” made us realize that while Witch Baby is now in some schools, it could very easily be in every ES and MS if it is determined to be acceptable at those age levels. This committee will obviously do what it wants to do. In numerous past challenges that almost always has been a 100% vote against the challenger. We ask that you consider that it is possible that FCPS has made a mistake on this book.

Whatever decision it is you make, the FCPS and the School Board will eventually have to let us and the public know what they think is acceptable or not when it comes to the topic of homosexuality in ES and MS. Witch Baby is not the only book with this type material in ES and MS. Witch Baby was selected for challenge because it has no controversial language or explicit sexual situations and therefore the focus of the challenge is solely on the homosexual theme. The only possible exception to this is if Witch Baby’s sister was conceived not through artificial insemination but through sex with one of the two homosexual men. However this is left unclear in the book.

We don’t feel that the material in Witch Baby is necessary for ES or MS. This book is not great literature or classic literature where some discussion could be made regarding the great material somehow offsetting the controversial material. Witch Baby is not even time-tested literature. It was only first published 10 years ago. Witch Baby is simply “fun” reading described to us as “choice” reading at Springfield Estates ES where we submitted this challenge. When we asked if the school specific collection policy said anything at all about “choice”, we were told no it did not.

There was a choice - a choice to purchase this book and place it in some ES and MS libraries. Over one-hundred elementary and middle schools chose not to have this book. Why did a few schools choose differently? What makes them different? Our challenge to Witch Baby requested that the names of the people who made the choice to be identified.

Parents don’t have a choice that their child picks a book off their school library shelf, with a catchy name like Witch Baby and reads it at school or at home. We, and the public have a right to know who is making these choices with our tax dollars for us.

As noted in our challenge the review of Witch Baby in the FCPS library catalog system specifically notes it is for grade 8-12. To use this book from K - 7th grade contradicts this catalog information and is inappropriate.

In July of this year the FCPS provided the school board a list of book titles dealing with homosexuality, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, gay rights, gender identity, sexual orientation, coming out and related topics. Witch Baby was not on this list even though it has homosexual subject material and is even in elementary school. The FCPS catalog system did not use any of these keywords as subject terms for Witch Baby despite the fact that this book and many other books by the same author show up on gay reading lists.

As stated in our challenge State Law says the entire scheme of instruction in the public schools shall emphasize moral education through lessons given by teachers and imparted by appropriate reading selections. We think that homosexuality in an ES book violates this.

We don’t know what parents, if any, were involved in choosing this book for ES and MS. We don’t know who chose it and why. Parents don’t have a choice if this book is in their child’s school library. The book is available to their child, like every other book in the library, when their children are there.

There are many books that were not chosen for some or any FCPS libraries. The only choice that happened so far is that FCPS has made a choice to place this book in some ES and MS libraries. We don’t think that was a good choice.

If Witch Baby is not available to ES and MS students it will still be available to them and their parents in public bookstores and the public library - the same as the millions of other books not “chosen” for our elementary and middle schools.