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Anne Frank's diary is back on Culpeper schools' reading list

By Michael Alison Chandler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 2, 2010; B08

The Culpeper County school superintendent said Monday that the school system had never formally removed a version of Anne Frank's diary from classrooms following a parental complaint that some passages were objectionable.

Director of instruction James Allen last week told The Washington Post that the definitive edition of the diary would not be used in the future and that the decision was made quickly, without adhering to a formal review policy for instructional materials that prompt complaints. The remarks set off a hailstorm of criticism online and brought international attention to the 7,600-student school system in rural Virginia.

Superintendent Bobbi Johnson said Monday that the book will remain a part of English classes, although it may be taught at a different grade level.

Johnson will convene a committee of English teachers and curriculum specialists this spring to review the diary along with scores of other books to develop a reading list for middle and high school English classes that teachers can use and that parents can review before school starts.

"This is not intended to censor or limit," Johnson said. "This has brought to light the fact that we need to be taking a look at what we are reading," she said.

Anne Frank's diary is one of the most enduring portraits of the horrors of the Nazi regime. It documents the daily life of a Jewish girl who lived in hiding with her family in Amsterdam for two years.

"The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition," which was published on the 50th anniversary of Frank's death in a concentration camp, includes passages that were edited from the original version, first published in 1947. Some of the new passages detail Frank's emerging sexual desires.

A Culpeper mother of an eighth-grader at Floyd T. Binns Middle School became concerned about an entry in which Frank describes having erotic feelings for another girl and another in which she describes what her vagina looks like, Johnson said. The mother did not want the book removed, she said. She was asking that her daughter not be required to read the book aloud, as the class had been doing.

Johnson said she reviewed e-mails among the parent, the middle-school principal and director of administrative services Russell Houck in late November and early December after the concern was first registered and found "no evidence . . . that anyone ever asked that the book be removed." She said that Allen and some teachers were misinformed about whether there had been such a request.

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