School drops Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ following complaints

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Harper Lee's 'To Kill a Mockingbird' has been dropped by Washington state school district  (Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images)
Harper Lee's 'To Kill a Mockingbird' has been dropped by Washington state school district (Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images)

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s celebrated novel about a wrongful rape accusation in 1930s Alabama, has been removed as required reading in a school district in Washington state.

Three teachers in Mukilteo School District, about 15 miles north of Seattle, objected to the 1961 Pulitzer Prize-winning book due to what they called its romanticisation of a “white saviour” complex, one-dimensional black characters, and frequent use of the N-word.

The board has now approved the request to have it removed from compulsory reading for ninth graders after ruling the novel was causing harm to students of colour.

Teachers will still be allowed to use the book in optional lesson plans.

Ms Lee’s classic is one of the bestselling books of all time and continues to be widely revered, with a stage version of the story currently enjoying an extended run on Broadway.

Atticus Finch, the bespectacled defence attorney, his daughter Scout, and neighbour Boo Radley are among the best-known fictional characters in American popular culture.

However, in recent years school districts from California to Mississippi have banned the book over claims it could traumatise black students, and employed a “white” portrayal of black people.

The Mukilteo School District’s Instructional Materials Committee, made up of 20 teachers and parents, approved the request after a public meeting on Monday.

‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ author Harper Lee receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007 (Getty)
‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ author Harper Lee receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007 (Getty)

Teachers and students who spoke during a meeting on Monday night ahead of the committee’s vote were mostly in support of the move, The Everett Herald reported, although several teachers defended the novel, saying its themes still have relevance today, and that the book can help students develop critical thinking.

Local news site Crosscut.com reported that three teachers questioned the novel’s place as a “cherished classic” in American literature at a school board meeting earlier this month.

“We need to examine carefully … whose collective memory we are upholding,” Verena Kuzmany said, according to the site.

Teacher Doug Baer said kids should not have to “endure embarrassing and offensive language” during class discussions of the book.

Teachers from the district stressed they were not banning the book, but simply making it an optional part of the curriculum.

Ms Lee died in 2016 at the age of 89. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W Bush in 2007.

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