Skeptic News: School Ouija presentation angers parents

From: Tampa Bay Online

Tim Ellefson said he was shocked when his son, in seventh grade, came home interested in a book about Ouija boards and summoning spirits.

While many see Ouija as a harmless game for fun, others, including Ellefson, think it’s evil.

“We’re Christians, and we try to raise our son to be a Christian,” Ellefson said. “My belief is good spirits are in heaven. Bad spirits come from the other place. And I don’t want my children connecting with bad spirits.”

So Ellefson was furious when he learned a teacher had brought an Ouija board into his 13-year-old son’s classroom at Burns Middle School in Brandon. His teacher invited a fellow teacher from another Hillsborough County school to speak to her reading class.

The speaker, Theresa Clinton, also is an author and wrote the book “Ouija Board Diaries: Summoning Spirits.”

It’s a work of fiction about a young girl who moves into a house with a ghost. The teacher spoke about her book and displayed a Ouija board, printed with the usual letters and symbols for spelling out reputed messages from spirits.

“We didn’t feel that was something that was appropriate,” Ellefson said.

“We felt we should have been given an opportunity to select what our children view and had the opportunity to say no on such a controversial subject as a Ouija board.”

The class is for students who need help in reading, said Linda Cobbe, Hillsborough school district spokeswoman. Cobbe said the students indicated an interest in books on the paranormal, such as the blockbuster Harry Potter series about a young wizard.

“There was a fake Ouija board, set up in a corner by the book, as a display,” Cobbe said. “The teacher did show the students what it was, what it looked like and asked the students if they had ever heard of one.”

Cobbe said the students didn’t touch the board, and no attempt was made to summon spirits “good or bad.”

The teacher meant no harm, Cobbe said, but after the concerns were raised, the Ouija board won’t likely be back in the classroom.

“The teacher has been cautioned to consider the type of reactions the parents might have,” Cobbe said. “Other teachers who thought about having this book in their class might reconsider now.”

The district received a handful of complaints, indicating that some parents had no problem with the Ouija board in the classroom, Cobbe said.

This complaint is the latest to be championed by a group that includes school board candidate Terry Kemple who formed after a presentation made to a high school class by Hassan Shibly, executive director of the Council for American-Islamic Relations in Tampa. Kemple’s group claims CAIR has ties to terrorist groups.

It is also worth noting the irony of what was originally a childrens game being considered too evil to be in a classroom.

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