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Children's Book May Return To Shelves

Loudoun County Supervisor Stevens Miller (Dulles), who has a kindergarten-age son, said he had addressed the board more than two years ago to defend freedom of expression over concerns about a gay-themed, student-written play. "I thought we already moved beyond this. I guess I was wrong," he told the board.

The book is about two male penguins that hatch and parent a chick. The complaint was filed May 28 by Sherrie Sawyer, a teaching assistant at Sugarland Elementary, according to records the school system provided in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

Sawyer identified herself as a Leesburg resident and a "concerned parent and assistant teacher" in the documents she submitted to school officials as part of her complaint and the two appeals she filed with Hatrick. She did not return a reporter's phone call Monday, and it is unclear whether she is a parent of children enrolled at Sugarland Elementary.

"I object to the homosexual theme of this book," she wrote in her initial complaint. "The two male penguins are described as acting like a male and female penguin. The zookeeper says, 'They must be in love.'

"I believe a student reading this book would be confused and would get the idea that homosexuality is a lifestyle that is supported by all. I believe that children at Sugarland would get the idea that the library staff and all Sugarland staff are supporters of this lifestyle," she wrote.

On June 6, a school review committee -- consisting of a parent, a Horizon Elementary librarian and a Sugarland teacher -- unanimously recommended that "And Tango Makes Three" remain in general circulation at Sugarland. On June 12, Sugarland Principal Angela Robinson wrote to Sawyer saying she agreed with the committee.

After Sawyer appealed that decision to Hatrick on Sept. 18, the district-level committee of administrators, teachers and parents reviewed the case. A majority voted to recommend that the book remain in the library collection, with two of the nine members in favor of removing the book and one member abstaining, according to an Oct. 3 letter to Hatrick from David Jones, the school system's director of library media services.

"The majority of the committee felt the book was a non-threatening way of discussing the idea of a 'two daddy family,' " Jones wrote. "They stressed it was a positive example of diversity. It was suggested that rather than remove the book from all students, it could serve as a catalyst for discussion within a family."

On Dec. 28, Sawyer appealed to Hatrick once again for the book's removal. He replied to her in a letter dated Jan. 28: "I have determined that the book should be moved from the general circulation area to the professional library in our elementary schools."

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