What was supposed to be a rubber-stamp approval for the School Board on Tuesday night turned into a discussion on censorship and freedom. The debate caused the board to postpone a decision on accepting changes in the district's media handbook, the county's policy statement on ordering and reviewing literature for libraries.
The problem was not the changes in the policy but the policy itself, which provides guidelines for setting up a committee to review art or literature thought to be obscene or to take the name of God in vain.
For board member Paul Clemons, questioning whether something is blasphemous is nonsense.
"Is it not clear-cut?" he asked board members.
"Taking God's name in vain. We all know what that is."
School Superintendent Dan McIntyre _ who three years ago unilaterally removed a copy of People magazine and a book about the Vietnam War from the West Hernando Middle School library when he was principal there _ quickly leaped to the policy's defense.
"Almost all words and how they are taken depend on the context, even with respect to using God's name," he said.
"One person's opinion is not sufficient," he declared.
That statement was surprising coming from McIntyre, since he was at the center of a yearlong controversy about the removal of West Hernando Middle School library material in 1987.
That year, McIntyre's decisions were criticized by the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association, which filed a grievance on the grounds that librarians' academic freedom had been infringed.
An independent arbitrator later ruled in favor of the teachers.
But on Wednesday, McIntyre insisted that his values always have been the same.
He said the controversy three years ago was over who would decide what material should be used in a library.
"My views haven't changed one whit," he said.
The controversy three years ago, he said, was "a contest to see if anything would go into the library other than what the librarian wanted."
In other action, the board agreed to suspend without pay former J.D. Floyd Elementary School teacher Roy Ferrantino, who has been charged with improperly touching several of his pupils.
Also, the board gave final approval to a measure that effectively removes the district's liability on non-school sponsored trips.