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School Board Reverses Ban on Faulkner Book

September 19, 1986 GMT

MAYFIELD, Ky. (AP) _ The Graves County School Board on Thursday reversed its decision to ban the William Faulkner novel ″As I Lay Dying,″ saying it failed to observe proper procedures in banning the book two weeks earlier.

The board said it feared it might not be able to defend itself against a possible lawsuit challenging the ban, which it instituted after a parent complained about profanity and references to an abortion in the novel.

The parent, Ladone Fields Hill, was not at Thursday’s 10-minute meeting, where the board voted 4-1 to rescind the ban.

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The Sept. 4 vote to ban the book was unanimous.

The Pulitzer-Prize winning author’s 1930 novel was one of about a dozen approved by the school’s language arts department on the advice of local college professors and the American Library Association.

It was selected as an early example of the stream-of-consciousness literary technique. In the book, members of a rural Mississippi family react to their mother’s death and burial.

″Certainly we want our children exposed to the opinions and ideas of great writers,″ board chairman Jeff Howard read from a statement. ″Neither are we so naive as to believe that our children aren’t exposed to profanity both in our community and among their peers.″

Area churches had supported the ban, but the Kentucky chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union had threatened a lawsuit to test the action.

The board in its statement said constitutional lawyers from throughout Kentucky had told them the ban was ill-advised, and that it had serious doubts about whether it could successfully defend against a lawsuit.

Board member Johnny Shelton cast Thursday’s lone negative vote. He left the meeting without commenting.

Not everyone in the crowd of about 50 at the meeting was happy with the board’s decision.

″There are enough conservative thinkers who think this book is not fit for reading in high school,″ said Rick Reeder, associate pastor of the Northside Baptist Church in Mayfield.

However, there were some supporters of the board’s action.

Dr. Robert Mills, who said his grandson is a freshman at Graves County High, said he was pleased with the decision. He said his grandson ″will hear a lot worse than that (the Faulkner novel) in school.″