ABERDEEN, Md. — Harford County schools superintendent has removed The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier from the high school curriculum after receiving complaints from some 40 parents about vulgar language and homophobic slurs.
The book, which has a message about the dangers of bullying, is the first intended for use in Harford schools that has been removed, according to a memo on the school system's Web site from Superintendent Jacqueline Haas.
"This decision was a very difficult one," said Mark M. Wolkow, president of the school board. "I have every confidence in the superintendent's process in making the decision."
Over the summer, teachers set a syllabus for a new class called Living in a Contemporary World. It was produced to help students going from middle school to high school.
The curriculum included the 1974 novel, which tells the story of a boy who is bullied because he won't take part in his school's fundraiser in which students sell chocolate. The book has won several awards and has been commended as a realistic portrayal of the dangers of bullying and harassment.
But several parents who objected to the some of the content in the book complained to school officials. At a board meeting last the fall, some parents expressed concern about profanity, sexual content and references to homosexuality, according to minutes from the meeting.
John Wagner, whose son attends Fallston High, was among the parents who complained about the book at the board meeting. He said the mere fact that the book generated controversy meant it was better to remove it from the curriculum.
"When I spoke at the board meeting last year, I said (that) we don't tell our children to go out at midnight because nothing good can come from it," Wagner said this week.
"Offering a controversial book as part of the curriculum seemed to be a similar situation," Wagner said. "I'm not an advocate for stopping free speech, but I am very pleased the school system isn't advocating the book as part of the curriculum."
The book can still be included among collections in school and public libraries, said Jennifer Ralston, materials management administrator for the county public library.