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  Parents Protest Harry Potter Books

By Jennifer Holland
Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, Oct. 13, 1999; 8:51 a.m. EDT

COLUMBIA, S.C. –– Some adults here wish Harry Potter would just – poof! – disappear.

Parents worried about the influence of the wildly popular Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling have persuaded the state's Board of Education to review whether the books should be allowed in the classroom.

"The books have a serious tone of death, hate, lack of respect and sheer evil," said Elizabeth Mounce of Columbia, one the parents who addressed the board Tuesday.

The state board said it was up to local school boards to decide if the books were appropriate, but agreed to review them. "Censorship is an ugly word, but it is not as ugly as what I've heard this morning," said board member Clarence Dickert.

The three books chart the course of 11-year-old Harry, who learns of his famous wizard-family past and is invited to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

The best-selling novels have cast a spell on young and old readers alike: Supportive parents say their preteens are putting away the video games and gobbling up the tales of sorcery, magic and secret spells.

More than 5 million hard copies of the books have been sold in the United States and millions more are in paperback, said Judy Corman, spokeswoman for U.S. publisher Scholastic Division.

"I didn't think about violence or anything about that," said Lizzie Allen, 14, of Columbia, who read the first book. "My mom got it for me and said it would be really good. At first, I thought is was a little kid's book and then I though 'Wow, this is really good.'"

More than 50 people waited at a suburban Boston bookstore Tuesday to meet Rowling at a book signing. She could not immediately be reached for comment.

The parents in South Carolina aren't the only ones who have complained about Harry Potter.

In Marietta, Ga., elementary school principal Jerry Locke recently asked a fifth-grade teacher to stop reading the books in class until the school decided whether they were appropriate. On Tuesday, he cleared one of the books for classroom use.

"It's questionable whether every parent wants their child to read or be exposed to books having to do with magic and wizardry," Locke said.

A handful of parents at a Lakeville, Minn., elementary school also objected, but the principal said it was up to teachers whether to continue reading Potter's tales to their students.

In Sioux Falls, S.D., however, sixth-grade reading teacher Bonnie Kiesow said she was amazed at the enthusiasm she saw among her students.

"Their parents are running all over town trying to find the book. I've had kids who said, 'My mom couldn't believe it because I don't sit down to read for two hours,'" she said. "This is just fun to see."

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press

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