Issue 63, Fall 1996

Penny Culliton, a New Hampshire teacher who fought back against attempts to smear and ultimately fire her, has been reinstated by the Mascenic School Board following a decision of the state’s Public Employee Labor Relations Board. The Labor Board upheld an arbitrator’s previous award that had turned Culliton’s dismissal into a one-year suspension.

The controversy focused on three works of literature (which treat homosexuality in various ways): Maurice by E.M. Forster, The Education of Harriet Hatfield by May Sarton and The Drowning of Stephan Jones by Bette Greene. Culliton had purchased the books with a grant that had been approved by the school superintendent and principal. However, shortly after a local newspaper reported that Culliton was working with a lesbian and gay support group for young people, the books were found “unsuitable” and banned. Maurice and The Education of Harriet Hatfield were seized from 11th and 12th grade students while they were reading the novels in class, prompting one NCAC Friend to write the school board, “This is tantamount to teaching youths that adults have an evil mind and that the First Amendment is in need of being replaced.”