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Archive for Tuesday, January 14, 1992

SPELLS TROUBLE IN PERRY

January 14, 1992

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— Parents are challenging Perry Elementary School's use of a simulation game and cite violence and references to witchcraft as reasons for wanting the material removed.

A group of parents voiced their concerns during the Perry-Lecompton School Board meeting Monday.

The group opposes the game "Wizards," which is used in fifth-grade to teach spelling. Kathy Foster, an elementary school teacher who implemented the program in her classroom, said the game involves traveling through a mythical land and collecting "gold." Students draw "fate cards" that either help or hinder the journey, and also advance on the map by earning points.

Points are awarded to students who use the spelling words correctly, earn a perfect spelling test score and tutor each other, Foster said.

LAST FALL, parents brought their concerns to the school board, and a committee of two patrons, three teachers and one administrator reviewed the "Wizards" game, said Dennis Yoder, Lecompton Elementary School principal. The committee met on Nov. 4, reviewed materials submitted by both sides of the issue, and concluded that the game doesn't promote witchcraft or the occult, he said.

However, the group also encouraged teachers to allow children to participate in other activities if they felt uncomfortable with the game.

Ina Maize, a parent of a fifth-grade student, told the board her daughter had said she felt disturbed by some of the spelling activities in her class. Maize said she reviewed the material after asking her daughter to bring it home.

"I was feeling pretty squeamish inside about it, too," she said, adding that a school district in California dropped the game from its curriculum about five years ago after a similar challenge.

SEVERAL parents objected to the game's focus on supernatural powers and the objective to advance from a level of a human to the level of powerful wizard.

Robert Norris, a patron urging removal of the game, said, "Many other games exist to teach without using symbols and other things that promote witchcraft and the occult. Get this out of the school system and get something in that kids can learn real things from."

While religion dominated the debate, other patrons expressed concern over the violent nature of the game's characters, such as Giant Tics, which suck the blood from livestock, and Orcs, which eat humans.

However, other parents and children in attendence supported continued use of the game.

WAYNE LEDBETTER encouraged parents to teach their youngsters how to make educated decisions about the information they receive in and out of school.

"If the influence of the game in the classroom outweighs your influence as parents, then your influence is not what it should be," he said. "We need to help children make good decisions without getting rid of curriculum."

Brian Good, a seventh-grade student at Perry Middle School, agreed.

"I think you should let the kids make their own decisions," he said. "If they like the game, it's a good way to make them spell."

Andy Hillin, sixth-grader, said, "Just because they play a game, they're not going to believe in dragons and wizards and everything. It's easier to understand when it's fun."

School board members will review material regarding the game and comments from the meeting, and will render a decision on "Wizards" at the Feb. 10 meeting.

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