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Clay County schools drop two books from reading lists

My Friend Flicka, a children's classic published in 1941, has been pulled from the fifth- and sixth-grade optional-reading lists of Clay County schools because of two words. Some parents complained to Clay County School Board officials that the book uses the word "bitch," in reference to a female dog, and the word "damn."

At the same time, another children's book, Abel's Island, was removed from the list because of references to drinking wine.

Board Vice Chairman George Bush said he supports school administrators' decision to remove the books from the lists.

The two titles are among several listed by publisher Houghton Mifflin of Boston at the end of chapters in textbooks. The lists suggest additional reading.

Bush noted that the board has not banned the books outright.

Dawn Wilson, supervisor of elementary curriculum, said both books still will be available in school libraries, but teachers no longer will have the option of assigning them.

Wilson said Assistant Superintendent Ben Wortham, with approval from Superintendent Ann Wiggins, pulled My Friend Flicka after a parent filed a formal complaint. He said Flicka contains the word"damn" twice and "bitch" once.

Other informal complaints have come from parents at three of the district's 15 elementary schools over the last three weeks, Wortham said.

Administrators pulled Abel's Island after determining its mention of drinking wine went against the district's substance-abuse policy.

Alexander Caswell, spokesman for Houghton Mifflin, said he never has heard of any other complaints about the two books.