The Biloxi school district in Mississippi has decided to remove To Kill a Mockingbird from its junior-high reading list. The reason? Some of the book’s language “makes people uncomfortable,” the vice president of the school board, Kenny Holloway, said. “There were complaints about it,” he added, “and we can teach the same lesson with other books.” The administrator insisted kids could still go to the library to read the book “but they’re going to use another book in the 8th grade course.”
Although the school administrator doesn’t say it, a parent who first contacted the Sun Herald with the news of the apparent mid-year shift in the reading list said the decision to pull the book was “due to the use of the ‘N’ word.”
Many criticized the decision by the school district, including Arne Duncan, who was secretary of Education from 2009-2015 under President Obama. “When school districts remove To Kill a Mockingbird from the reading list, we know we have real problems,” Duncan wrote on Twitter. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska also blasted the move, calling it “a terrible decision.”
The Sun Herald, which was the first to break the story earlier his week, published an editorial criticizing the decision by the school district:
Acting as if race is no longer a factor in our society is part of the problem. Acting as if it is too difficult or offensive to talk about is part of the problem.
We have not, in fact, overcome racism.
The racists in our society must be confronted. They must not be allowed to assume our silence is acquiescence.
In the book, the Finch children, Scout and Jem, grow when they confront evil. They discover prejudice and overcome it. And that is because their father, Atticus, treats them maturely and guides them in the right direction.
The Biloxi school system should follow his example.
This is not the first time a school district has decided to pull the classic Harper Lee book, which is often listed as one of the country’s most frequently banned books. Last year, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn were removed from classrooms in Accomack County, Virginia following a complaint about the use of the N-word.