A panel of parents and educators debated Friday whether to ban "My Friend Flicka" from a list of recommended readings for elementary students because of curse words.

Also on the list of books under consideration at the Clay County school superintendent's office were "Abel's Island" and "Little Red Riding Hood," which some parents feared promoted drinking alcohol.The debate lasted most of the day in the courthouse annex at Orange Park, a suburb of Jacksonville. No indication was given when the book review committee might issue a decision.

The controversy began when Karen and Ken Wacha were approached by their 11-year-old son, Randy, with complaints that the 1941 classic "Flicka" was marred by bad words. In October, he brought home a condensed version of the book.

Within days, other parents objected to "Abel's Island" and "Little Red Riding Hood." The former depicts a lost mouse having a drink of wine with a soused toad; a version of the latter published by Houghton Mifflin Publishing Co. refers to wine young Red takes to her ailing grandmother.

School officials in the largely rural county were worried the references might cloud the anti-drinking messages hammered into children by the schools.

"A book that might be acceptable in Miami or of Chicago might not be acceptable here," said Keystone Heights Elementary School Principal Ken Blair. "I don't see any reason to have profanity at the elementary level."

Norma Jones, assistant director of the Clay County Public Library System, said the system's 120,000 volumes include the three books cited.

" `My Friend Flicka' is a classic," Jones said. "I see nothing wrong with it."

Others insist they don't want their kids picking up ideas about cursing and drinking at school.

"The truth is, there's a lot of profanity in the world, and I just don't mean language," said Blair.

Other county residents said they didn't see what the fuss was all about.

"It can't be any worse than what Bart Simpson says every week," said Jeanne Birtel, a clerk at the downtown Green Cove Springs Shop. "I don't think kids could read anything as bad as what they see on TV."