UPDATE: School Board Likely to Remove Controversial Book

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June 28, 2011

Can sixth graders read the book and distinguish fact from fiction? That's precisely the question educators and church leaders are wrestling with.

Several Albemarle County School parents, along with members of the Mormon community, have challenged a novel on the sixth grade reading list. They contend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet has a negative depiction of the Mormon religion.

“I think a concern for the parents that aired this is that this can be threatening for young students who belong to the church and are in an environment where their fellow peers are not able to appropriately understand the truth from the 19th century misconceptions that existed,” said Bishop Michael Schill with the Church of Latter Day Saints.

The mystery novel, first published in the late 1880's, introduces the world to the character Sherlock Holmes. Throughout the book Doyle describes Mormons as 'violent' and 'intolerant'. The following line was taken from the novel:

"The invisibility and the mystery which was attached to it, made this organization doubly terrible," (Chapter 3).

One Albemarle County parent does not want her sixth grader, or any other student for that matter, to read the terrible connotations made in the novel. She asked the county to remove the book from the reading list.

Albemarle County Schools responded by creating a committee assigned to the task of reading the book and examining it for passages that paint a negative portrait of Mormons. The strong language convinced the committee to recommend that the book be removed from the reading list.

"I did feel that there was some obvious bias or misrepresentation of Mormon history," said School Board Chair Steve Koleszar. "I felt that that I could easily see how 6th graders might not understand that it was fiction, that it was from a particular point of view."

CBS19 learned that the superintendent of Albemarle County Schools, Pam Moran, agrees with the parents' objection and the committee's recommendation.

The County School Board will vote on the issue on July 14, however that appears to be a formality. Koleszar says he's pleased with the process. Bishop Schill, while also satisfied, emphasized that the Church of Latter Day Saints is in no way behind the complaints.

"This is an issue brought by parents," he explained. "Some of them are members of the church, but certainly the church has no attempt to take this book or any other book off the shelf, or censor literature in public schools."

A complete list of approved sixth grade books is available online. Books for students in grades seven through twelve can be found on the Albemarle County School website.

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