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Schools chief bans book on penguins

Tale describes males raising egg

"And Tango Makes Three" is based on a real-life story about two male penguins tending to an adopted egg at the Central Park Zoo in New York City. Objections have been raised in schools or public libraries in several states. (Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Charlotte schools superintendent and his top lieutenants have ordered a picture book about two male penguins raising an egg removed from school libraries.

But the superintendent, Peter Gorman, said yesterday he will let a committee review the decision after questions from reporters indicated that he and his staff sidestepped the school district's policy by banning the book.

"And Tango Makes Three," the real-life story of "the very first penguin in the zoo to have two daddies," has drawn objections in schools or public libraries in several states. All decided to keep the book, according to the American Library Association. Charlotte-Mecklenburg's public library has also rejected a request to remove it, a spokeswoman said.

The school district pulled the book without receiving a formal complaint. Gorman said a couple of parents had asked him about the book, in which two male penguins at New York's Central Park Zoo pair up and hatch an adopted egg, and Republican County Commissioner Bill James had e-mailed him.

James said he read an online article about the book and asked Gorman whether school libraries had it. "I am opposed to any book that promotes a homosexual lifestyle to elementary school students as normal," he said.

Four schools in the district had the book.

On Nov. 30, top school administrators sent a memo to principals and media specialists explaining the decision to ban the book from all schools.

"First, it is a picture book that focuses on homosexuality. Second, we did not feel that such information was vital to primary students. Next, we did not believe the book would stimulate growth in ethical standards, and the book is too controversial," it said.

Banning books is controversial, too.

"One parent's decision shouldn't dictate whether or not the book is available to all the other families in the community," said Deborah Caldwell-Stone of the American Library Association. "Any challenge to a book is ultimately an attempt to remove an idea from public discourse."

Banning "Tango" is a bad idea, she said, and doing it without conducting an open, balanced review is worse.

The national controversy over the book began in March, when Missouri parents asked two public libraries to remove it. Complaints also surfaced in Georgia, Tennessee, Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois.

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