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School toy dropped for "hypnosis'

A elementary school has suspended use of a puppet named Pumsy the Dragon as a teaching tool because one parent claims that it is hypnotic and might harm children.

The complaint came from Candy Johnson, who has a second-grader at Doctors Inlet Elementary School north of here in northeastern Florida.

"There's a psychiatrist who says this program is very threatening to a child's welfare. It becomes a hypnosis session after a while," she said.

Dr. George Twente of General Hospital in Decatur, Ala., said Pumsy teaches children they can change the way they feel. "You're almost convincing the child he has magical powers," he said.

Twente and Mrs. Johnson said Pumsy is part of the New Age movement, a collection of philosophies often associated with self-healing and reincarnation.

Ben Wortham, assistant superintendent for instruction in Clay County, said Pumsy has nothing to do with New Age or the occult.

Pumsy is used in about six of the district's 15 elementary schools to help build self-esteem and decision-making skills among first- to third-grade pupils, Wortham said Tuesday. The district has used the material for four years.

The dragon is used only as an attention-getting device.

Principal Fred Fedorowich said the school's curriculum committee, which previously had approved Pumsy lessons, has suspended the program pending a review Friday.