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Entries in Albemarle County School District (1)

Friday
Aug122011

Va. School District Removes Sherlock Holmes Novel for 'Anti-Mormon' Portrayal

A statue of Sherlock Holmes stands near the fictional character's home in London. Comstock/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- A parent's complaint that a Sherlock Holmes novel is anti-Mormon has led to its removal from the sixth-grade reading list in a Virginia county school system.

In a unanimous vote, the seven-member Albemarle County school board chose Thursday night to remove the Victorian-era detective novel, A Study in Scarlet, that introduced Sherlock Holmes to the world from the county's sixth-grade curriculum because the novel is not "age-appropriate" for 11 and 12 year olds.

"We decided the book is not age-appropriate to be assigned in toto for sixth-grade students," Harley Miles, the board's vice chair, told ABC News. "It certainly can be used in older grades, but there's lots of other books that could be used for sixth grade."

The school board of the affluent district located outside Charlottesville was forced to consider the ban after parents challenged the book on grounds that it denigrates the Mormon religion.

Brette Stevenson, the Henley Middle School parent who first complained about the book in May, argued that the work was not an appropriate introduction for sixth-graders to religion, deduction and the mystery literary genre.

"This is our young students' first inaccurate introduction to an American religion," Stevenson, a Mormon, told the board.

The book was only used in the curriculum at that middle school of about 120 sixth-graders by one teacher but is no longer on the approved list of books available to the entire school system's 1,000 sixth-graders, a spokesman said.

The banned book is the first in the Sherlock Holmes detective series, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, that follows the travails of Holmes, now arguably one of the world's best-known literary figures, and Dr. Watson, a former military man, in a murder investigation.

The work has been criticized for its depiction of Mormons being involved in murder and kidnapping. One storyline depicts "evil" Mormons forcing a main character, Lucy Ferrier, into polygamy.

"The second half of the book deals with very negative representations of the Mormon faith," Miles said.

The Albemarle County Public School system serves a populous and affluent community. Albemarle is the largest county in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and frequently ranked as one of the nation's top places to raise a family.

The book will remain available to all 13,200 of the county's students in school libraries, but will no longer be listed on the recommended reading list for sixth-grade students.

The school board's decision was based on a recommendation from a committee of parents, community members and school board staff commissioned to study the book. The committee's decision that the book was not age-appropriate was also unanimous.

School board vice-chair Miles said the book could easily be replaced by one of Doyle's other novels in the Sherlock Holmes series, such as his fifth novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles, that Stevenson, the parent who filed the initial complaint, also proposed to the board as a better introduction to mystery.

More than 20 former Henley Middle School students attended Thursday's meeting to show their support for the book and oppose any ban. Quinn Legallo-Malone, a rising ninth-grader at an Albemarle high school, spoke during the meeting's public comment, calling the work "the best book I have read so far."

After the vote, the teenager expressed his frustration with the board's decision.

"It's not what I had hoped for, but I guess they did what's best," Quinn told the Charlottesville Daily Progress newspaper. "I was capable of reading it in sixth grade. I think it was a good challenge. I'm upset that they're removing it."

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