Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird has been removed from the 8th grade curriculum in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Karen Nelson with the Biloxi Sun Herald reported on the ban, learning from a Biloxi school board member that it was “an administrative and department decision.” According to an individual who contacted Sun Herald, the book was removed mid-lesson, after students had already started the reading.
“There were complaints about it,” said Kenny Holloway, the vice president of the Biloxi School Board. “There is some language in the book that makes people uncomfortable, and we can teach the same lesson with other books.”
A statement from Superintendent Arther McMillan reinforces Holloway’s conclusion: “There are many resources and materials that are available to teach state academic standards to our students. These resources may change periodically. We always strive to do what is best for our students and staff to continue to perform at the highest level.”
The school district is defending itself by stating that To Kill a Mockingbird is still available in the library. But if the removal was indeed an administrative decision, it appears that it might be in violation of the district materials reconsideration policy (IFAB), which reads:
A student or his/her parent has the right to reject the use of library media center materials which seem incompatible with his/her values and beliefs. Classroom assignments involving library media center materials should provide for alternate choices. However, no parent has the right to determine the reading matter for students other than his/her own children. In addition, in elective courses taken at the student’s option, the student’s right to request alternate choices of reading material will be accommodated based on the availability of equivalent resources weighted against the academic requirements of the course.
Any parent who wishes to request reconsideration of the use of any library media center materials in the school must make his/her request in writing on forms provided through the building principal. The completed form is to be returned to the principal. If the principal is unable to satisfy the complainant during an informal conference, he/she should refer the matter to a Review Committee.
No administrator, library media specialist, or teacher should agree to withdraw an item without referring it to a Review Committee which determines whether the material should be withdrawn from any or all schools.
This Review Committee shall be appointed as needed, with recommendations for its membership being made by the Director of Administrative Services and approved by the Superintendent.
Reporting on the ban does not mention that a review committee was formed to consider the material. The removal raises serious First Amendment concerns, doubly so if administrators did indeed circumvent their own policies to ban the book from classrooms. We’ll continue to follow the story and post more information if it becomes available.
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