The witchcraft and murder in Harry Potter's adventures through a fictional world of wizardry entice children to be violent, some parents say, and they want the best-selling novels be banned from public schools.
"How many more school shootings linked to students acting out these fairy tales and fantasies do we have to endure before this type of material is not read and promoted to our own school system?" Steve Mounce of Columbia asked the South Carolina Board of Education Tuesday.
A dozen parents complained that schools are supposed to be teaching character education, but "these books contain violence, disrespect, racism, murder, violent death and the occult," Mounce said. Parents elsewhere have raised similar objections.
"I could see that if there was gratuitous violence, but it's not," said Michelle Godkin Lift, owner of All Books & Company in Summerville.
Publicity has brought parents running into her store for the books and it's also brought on the controversy, she said. "I really did expect it."
|Best selling author J.K. Rowling|
More than 5 million hardback copies of the books have been sold in the United States and millions more are in paperback, said Judy Corman, spokeswoman for U.S. publisher Scholastic Division.
"I didn't think about violence or anything about that," said Lizzie Allen, 14, of Columbia, who said she read the first book. "My mom got it for me and said it would be really good. At first, I thought is was a little kid's book and then I though 'Wow, this is really good.'"
The South Carolina Education Board said it was up to local school boards to decide if the books were appropriate, but agreed to review them. "Censorship is an ugly word, but it is not as ugly as what I've heard this morning," said board member Clarence Dickert, one of those who wants a review.
"We certainly don't want any Columbine incidents in this state," said board member Henry Jordan. "I want to look into the books."
Rowling was not taking reporters' questions Tuesday at a book signing in a Boston suburb.
"There is no overt violence in the book," Corman said. "Reference to Harry's parents' death by the evil Voldemort establishes the surviving Harry as unique and special."
But in Marietta, Ga., elemenary school Principal Jerry Locke recently asked a fifth-grade teacher to stop reading the books in class until the school decided whether they were appropriate.
"It's questionable whether every parent wants their child to read or be exposed to books having to do with magic and wizardry," Locke said.
On Tuesday, a school official said Locke has since reviewed one of the books and cleared it for classroom use.