A school district in the U.S. state of California has temporarily banned the use of a dictionary that contains a definition for oral sex, a permanent ban being a real possibility.
When a mother volunteering in her son's class at Oak Meadows Elementary in Menifee Union School District, Southern California came across a definition of 'oral' sex' in Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary 10th Edition - some reports are indicating that the woman's son came across the word - and complained to the school's principal, officials decided to remove the dictionary from the district's classrooms.
Reporting that the definition reads:Main Entry: oral sex Function: noun Date: 1973 : oral stimulation of the genitalKTLA-TV states too that a newly formed committee will decide in due course whether to ban the dictionary on a permanent basis.
The district's Assistant Superintendent Karen Valdes has noted that while the dictionary, published in 1998, is a respected source, it contains a number of words/definitions that are "age-inappropriate".
According to the The Press-Enterprise the dictionaries, removed from the shelves at some stage last week, were purchased in recent years for use by fourth-grade and fifth-grade students i.e. children aged nine through eleven.
But the move by officials in Menifee Union School District - Menifee is a city in Riverside County with some 67,000 residents and the school district serves 9,000 students in kindergarten through eighth grade says KTLA-TV - has not pleased some parents or indeed some members of the school board.
Board member Rita Peters, observing that parents should not be setting school policy and that if the dictionary is banned other books in the library that refer to oral sex should face a similar ban, is concerned too that the removal took place after just one complaint.
Others opposing the move include Peter Scheer of the California First Amendment Coalition, a "nonprofit public interest organization dedicated to advancing free speech, more open and accountable government, and public participation in civic affairs". He declared that "common sense seems to be lacking in this school".
Emanuel Chavez, the parent of second-grade and sixth-grade students, is unhappy with the school district's decision, The Press-Enterprise quoting him as saying:Censorship in the schools, really? Pretty soon the only dictionary in the school library will be the Bert and Ernie dictionary. If the kids are exposed to it, it's up to the parents to explain it to them at their level
Mr Chavez's "Bert and Ernie" reference is presumably to the characters in the children's TV series Sesame Street.
In addition the Southwest Riverside News Network reports that father-of- three Jason Rogers posed the question:What are they going to do next, pull encyclopedias because they list parts of the human anatomy like the penis and vagina?
Although not responding directly to Mr Rodgers' comment, when explaining the district's review of the dictionary spokeswoman Betti Cadmus reportedly said that entries relating to the human anatomy would probably not present a problem.
Nevertheless the district officials' decision on the dictionary has the support of at least one school board member, Randy Freeman.
Mr Freeman, himself an elementary school teacher and the father of four daughters in Menifee schools, noted that Merriam Webster's may be "a prestigious dictionary that's used in the Riverside County spelling bee" but he believes that "there are words in there of concern".