Muscogee media committee votes to keep challenged book

February 25, 2009 

The Muscogee School district's eight-member media committee voted unanimously Wednesday to keep the book "My Brother Sam is Dead" available to to elementary-age children.

The mother of a Reese Road Elementary fourth-grader had complained that the book contains profanity that students would be disciplined for using in class.

The book is a Revolutionary War novel set in Redding, Conn., which promotes tourism based on it. The book uses true characters, sites and events to tell a fictional tale of a family that ran a tavern there.

The novel by writer James Lincoln Collier and historian Christopher Collier tells the story of the Meeker family through the eyes of the youngest son, 14-year-old Tim Meeker. It has won critical acclaim for its dramatic prose and historical accuracy, and for its relevance to instruction in history and civics.

Shirley Waller, whose daughter checked out the book from the elementary school library, wrote in her formal complaint that she was unaware of any literary criticism regarding the book, and she personally thought “the story is fine.”

On the back of her complaint form, she listed 19 terms she found objectionable from the book. Fourteen were the word “damn” or some variation of the word, three of which could be considered blasphemous.

The committee was scheduled to meet about the book last week, but the hearing was postponed because Waller was not notified of the meeting. Waller was present today but did not address the committee.

The committee’s options included leaving the book in libraries, removing it, restricting access to it without a parent’s permission and moving it from elementary to middle or high school libraries.

Its decision today is a recommendation to be transmitted to the school superintendent, and it may be appealed to the school board.

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