PARKERSBURG - A one-day speaking engagement at Williamstown High School by a Canadian author turned into a two-day headache for Principal Pat Peters.
Complaints about comments the author made to students prompted Peters to look into the matter and eventually resulted in a one-man protest outside the school.
Author John Erb, a Canadian living in Virginia Beach, went to Williamstown High Tuesday to speak to the school's English classes about his book, "The Slow Poisoning of America," which he writes links autism with the food additive monosodium glutamate (MSG).
When there were complaints about some of Erb's comments to students regarding addiction, Peters asked to meet with Erb Wednesday morning to discuss the complaints. Instead, Peters said he was quizzed by Erb about the school and county's nutrition information and dietary plan.
"I got no information, so I asked him to leave," Peters said.
Rather than leave, Erb fashioned a homemade sign and stood outside the school claiming he was expelled for asking too many questions. Law enforcement officials intervened, and Erb was forced to move his one-man protest across the street, off school property.
Standing on a church lot, caddy-corner from the school Erb focused on his crusade against MSG rather than the remarks he made to students that some school officials felt were inappropriate.
Erb said he went to Williamstown -by bus -because of a paper written by some Williamstown students on MSG. Peters said the students discovered Erb and his book and contacted him.
Erb spoke to several English class students Tuesday. Peters said during one session, Erb made some inappropriate comments. Peters, who was out sick Tuesday, said he spoke to the teacher about Erb's remarks.
"She said he made some questionable comments," Peters said.
Erb said he was called by Peters to go into the school Wednesday. Peters said the conversation turned "adversarial" and Erb was asked to leave. Erb went outside, fashioned a sign on a manila folder and stood outside the school until law enforcement officials asked him to move across the street. Erb requested to speak to Wood County Superintendent of Schools Bill Niday.
Peters said he and Erb sat down again Wednesday afternoon and had a more amicable meeting, which prompted Erb to end his one-man protest.