Schools Drop 'To Kill A Mockingbird' From Reading List After Race Complaint

A school board in Washington has voted to remove Harper Lee's classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird from the required reading list for ninth-grade students.

The Mukilteo School Board voted unanimously to remove the book from the required reading list on Monday evening, The Everett Herald reported.

The board's move does not ban the book from being taught, and it remains on the district-approved novel list.

To Kill a Mockingbird, which tells the story of an attorney who represents a Black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman in Alabama in the 1930s, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961, and is required reading in many schools across the country.

However, the book has also been controversial and banned by some school districts.

Last year, three high school English teachers—Verena Kuzmany, Riley Gaggero and Rachel Johnson—requested the book be removed from the Mukilteo School District's curriculum, according to the Herald.

They argued the novel celebrates white saviorhood, marginalizes characters of color, and features the 'n-word' almost 50 times.

The Instructional Materials Committee, comprised of about 20 members including teachers and parents, evaluated the request.

First edition of To Kill A Mockingbird
A first edition of Harper Lee's book 'To Kill a Mockingbird' (C) with a dust-jacket designed by George Butler is seen on display at Sotheby's action house in London on December 7, 2017. Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images

They recommended the removal of the book from the school district's ninth-grade English/Language Arts required reading list, but said it should remain on a list of approved novels for teachers to use.

Dr. Alison Brynelson, the superintendent of the Mukilteo School Board, supported the removal of the book from the ninth-grade required reading list, according to the school board's meeting agenda.

Most teachers and students who spoke during the public comment period of the meeting ahead of the vote were in support of removing Mockingbird from the required reading list, the Herald reported.

Michael Simmons, the board's president and an African American, told Newsweek that he and other board members made their decision after "seriously considering" the information provided.

"My vote for 11 years as a school board member has always been reflective of what is in the best interest of the Mukilteo School District students and our teachers, and of course our district's mission—'committed to the success of every student.'

"To Kill A Mockingbird garnered an enormous amount of interest, albeit with great emotion, from mainly teachers, community members and organizations, and of course our students have also shared perspectives. All board members voted with clear minds and only after seriously considering the information provided."

Simmons added: "Most importantly, and central to me as the Board President, will be our path forward of continuing our collective commitment to our mission by all stakeholders—teachers, parents, community members and our administrative team led by Dr. Brynelson, our Superintendent. I have zero doubt that we will."

At least two of the school board's five members reread the book ahead of Monday's vote.

"I had a visceral reaction to the racism in the book and I can only imagine the pain and despair that any student might experience while reading it in class," board member Judy Schwab said during the meeting, according to the Herald.

Members of the Mukilteo School Board and the district's superintendent have been contacted for additional comment.

Update at 8:32 a.m. ET on 1/25/22: This article has been updated with a statement from Michael Simmons.