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No Sex Please! We’re Just Kids!

No Sex Please! We’re Just Kids!

Perhaps it’s not that surprising that a mother in Menifee, California, asked the Menifee Union School District to ban all copies of the 10th edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary after her child stumbled across the term “oral sex.” What is surprising, indeed horrifying, is that district officials immediately complied with her request, and pulled all dictionaries off classroom shelves throughout the Southern California school district, which serves 9,000 kids, kindergarten through eighth grade.

District officials said on Friday that they are forming a committee to consider a permanent classroom ban of the Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. District spokeswoman Betti Cadmus said that school officials will review the dictionary to decide if it should be permanently banned because of the “sexually graphic” entry. “It’s hard to sit and read the dictionary, but we’ll be looking to find other things of a graphic nature,” Cadmus said. (Isn’t that just what those fourth and fifth graders like to do?!)

Apparently some parents and free-speech advocates believe that district officials are overreacting. No kidding! Let’s put this in perspective: every year, public schools across the country receive hundreds of requests from parents, public officials and activists to remove books they consider inappropriate. Between 1990 and 2008, the American Library Association logged more than 9,600 requests to take books away from library shelves, summer reading lists and school classrooms. Most of these challenged books remain on the shelves.

Parents have every right to complain if they disapprove of a particular book assigned to their child. But for the district to pull those dictionaries without consulting parents, teachers, or the school board is not only ludicrous, it is also wrong. Here’s the District’s Mission Statement: “The Mission of the Menifee Union School District in partnership with students, families, and the changing, diverse Menifee Valley communities is to develop lifelong learners with the skills, knowledge, and desire to be respectful, compassionate, responsible, and contributing citizens by providing a high-quality education in a
nurturing, challenging learning environment in which all children are empowered to reach their full potential.”  

What kind of partnership exists if one mother has the power to empty bookshelves of dictionaries? It seems that the district has acted in a way that entirely goes against what it claims that it sets out to do. And how on earth can this be a “challenging learning environment” where students can “reach their full potential” if they are denied access to the most basic reference material?

As Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition says “common sense seems to be lacking in this school.”

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Judy Molland

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170 comments

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9:44PM PDT on Apr 28, 2012

Bans like this really are absurd. They seem especially useless given the state of our near-ubiquitous access to huge amounts of information. Anyone with an internet connection has access to exponentially larger amount significantly more objectionable content. Parents can only limit what their children see so much. Almost anyone in this country who has access to a dictionary has access to the internet (whether it be at school, library, friends house, personal, etc.).

Children need to be taught how to discern the useful parts of the information they take in. Limiting this information intake is counterproductive to this aim, and will ultimately fail.

4:12PM PST on Nov 8, 2011

I used to think that parents having the ability to ban books from schools was a good thing - and then I grew up. Grew up and read many versions of the stupidity shown in this article.

9:11AM PDT on Sep 8, 2011

My 5th graders child dictionary did not have several of the words he didn't understand in his reading. Does this Mother want to keep her child ignorant? If she has a phobia about sex and passed it on to her child, I'm surprised the child even read the definition. I was a late bloomer and did not participate in reading the library dictionary for "naughty words." I heartily disbelieve that removing the dictionary would remove children's curiosity about sex. Does the Mother really prefer her child to learn about sex from a less factually correct source? One that tells the child you can't get pregnant the first time? Or it's you can't get pregnant if you time sex correctly with your period...

8:53AM PDT on Sep 8, 2011

How many 4 and 5 year olds read the dictionary, and would understand the definition of oral sex. I guess they don't want children learning about sex from the dictionary, they would rather they stumble across their porn magazines.

6:24AM PDT on Sep 7, 2011

We worry about what children READ about sex in a dictionary (yeah, right, they couldn't have found that on the internet!) but not the 'reality shows' that show nasty, back stabbing behavior and jumping from bed to bed like rabbits? Or violent and/or overly sexual tv, movies and video games?

Some of the computer gaming avatars would make Barbie blush! My mom wouldn't let me and my sister have Barbies in the 60's because she thought Barbie had too much bust and not enough middle.

My sons showed me what some of these games have in them. Wow! Hand me that dictionary, please!

6:11AM PDT on Sep 7, 2011

I am normally someone who thinks that parents are overreacting when they want censorship. However, ORAL SEX???? I can tell you such a thing would not have been in a dictionary when I was that age and I'm only in my 30's. My mother was very open about sex and such. I was not raised religious. My parents were much less strict than most parents. However, when I was about that age and asked my mother what a blow job was, she FREAKED. Now, I laugh about it, but if I think about it seriously, I can't say that I blame her. Although, I knew the term from movies on HBO. A child should not just stumble across a term like this in the dictionary. What if this was a younger child, like 4 or 5??? I'm kind of stunned that such a phrase was even IN A DICTIONARY.

10:21AM PDT on Sep 6, 2011

Wow, I can kind of understand parents being perturbed if the entry 'oral sex' included a graphic. A sketch like that would be hotter to elementary school kids than an entire year's worth of National Geographic Magazines!

That written, has anyone bothered to question why elementary school kids are being provided with "Collegiate" dictionaries?

@ Phillippa F. - Your comment reminded me of the woman who sued Jerry Seinfeld after her co-workers ridiculed her for not knowing she has a 'clitoris.'

This whole 'obscenity' thing reminds me of when friends took their 13 year old son to go see "The Last Samurai." Having heard there was a 'sex scene' in the movie, they sat on either side of him - fully prepared to cover his eyes in the event it got too steamy. Of course, they had no problem with him witnessing people being shot, stabbed, slashed, hacked, chopped, blown-up, ... to death. This was the real obscenity in that film. If I had a son I would definitely want 2 things for him: that he have a pleasurable sex life, and that he never find himself involved in war.

9:47AM PDT on Sep 6, 2011

Just teach the kids sex education, It is that simple. I am tired of banned books.why do we need people to tell us what we can read

7:46AM PDT on Sep 4, 2011

i think maybe they should have just restricted these dictinaries to students in 4th grade and above....and plaease, please more through, open, honest sex education in school........students should learn about oral sex the same time they learn about standard sex.........it is actually useful for preventing pregancies

5:35AM PDT on Sep 3, 2011

if parents want to censor books, let them do it at home. Oh wait... they're the ones who give their t'ween kids video games like Grand Theft Auto, and a bazillion others that espouse violence. Why is anything having to do with sex so wrong but teaching kids to steal and kill and desensitizing them to the sight and idea of taking a life is absolutely permissible?

I don't understand society, I don't understand people like this moronic so-called "mother" who wants to keep the world ignorant!

People like her just strip the hope for humanity right out of my soul and replace it with disgust.

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