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Racial concerns prompt Mukilteo to consider removing classic novel from required reading list

At least one parent in the district believes To Kill A Mockingbird is racially insensitive, and a committee voted 63% to remove it as required reading.

MUKILTEO, Wash. — The Mukilteo School Board will soon decide whether to remove the classic American novel To Kill A Mockingbird from its required reading list.

It's currently compulsory for ninth grade students.

Written more than six decades ago, To Kill A Mockingbird tells the racially charged story of a Black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman.

It won the Pulitzer Prize and is studied in high schools across the country. However, in Mukilteo, it's raising questions outside of the classroom.

"How do we walk our students through what could potentially be very hard to read and in some cases traumatic subject matter?" asked Mukilteo School District spokesperson Diane Bradford.

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Mukilteo received one request to remove the book from the district's curriculum saying the "n-word" is used more than 50 times with no context about its negative connotations.

The complaint also states that the book marginalizes characters of color and celebrates the notion of "white saviorhood."

Supporters of the book say removing it from required reading would set a dangerous precedent about censorship.

They believe the themes about racism are still very relevant for students.

They also claim teaching books like "To Kill A Mockingbird" encourages critical thinking.

"We want to honor people's different belief systems, but that can be a tricky balance to maintain," said Bradford.

A committee comprised of about 20 teachers, librarians, administrators and parents voted 63% to remove the book from the required reading list. However, 68% also voted not to remove the book from the approved novels list.

"That means if a teacher really wants to continue to teach it in their classroom that would be their option because it would remain on the approved novels list," said Bradford. "Students who find the material offensive can opt out."

If the novel is removed from the required reading list it will not be banned in Mukilteo schools. The book will still be available in school libraries.

The school board took public testimony Monday night.

This is the first time in 20 years someone has asked to have a book removed from required reading.

Bradford said it isn't something the board takes lightly.

"The school board is going to hear a lot of different perspectives and they're going to have a lot to wrestle with to make this decision."

A final decision by the school board is expected January 24.