MUKILTEO — The Mukilteo School Board on Monday will consider removing the 1960 literary classic “To Kill a Mockingbird” from the required reading list for high school freshmen.
The public can comment in person or by Zoom at the 6 p.m. meeting at the district office, 9401 Sharon Dr. in Everett. It is the last item on the agenda.
“This is the first time in at least 20 years that a request has been made to remove a novel from the curriculum,” district superintendent Alison Brynelson said in a statement. “We recognize the strong feelings and varying perspectives around this topic.”
It stems from a citizen request made to the Kamiak High School principal that was evaluated by the district’s Instructional Materials Committee.
The request’s reasons included: “Marginalizes and gives little voice or agency to characters of color. Celebrates white saviorhood and tells story through white perspective only. Uses the “n” word almost 50 times and never addresses it as derogatory. Does not support goals of equity and inclusion.”
The Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Harper Lee tells the story of a white lawyer defending a Black man wrongly accused of rape in Alabama in the 1930s and uses dialogue of the time. The theme is prejudice and loss of innocence.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” has been controversial for 60 years but remains required reading in many schools nationwide, though several districts have banned it, along with “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “Of Mice and Men” and “The Catcher in the Rye.”
The Mukilteo instruction committee is recommending the novel be cut from the required curriculum but that it should remain on the approved novel list that teachers can use.
The committee is comprised of about 20 teachers, librarians, administrators, parents and community members who heard arguments on both sides before making a decision. Reasons for keeping the book included: “Removing novels is censorship and sets a dangerous precedent. Examine how it is taught and provide professional development on culturally sensitive texts.”
In December, the majority voted the book should be removed from the ninth grade English Language Arts curriculum but not to ban it from classroom use.
Monday’s meeting is to present the findings to the board, which is tentatively scheduled to make a decision on Jan. 24.
“This request for removal of a novel and the feedback we’ve received have given us the opportunity to reflect on our curriculum procedures which will aid us in future curriculum adoptions,” Brynelson said. “Through this process, we heard a desire from teachers to engage in professional learning on how to teach culturally sensitive novels to their students.”
Those wanting to comment via Zoom have until two hours before the meeting begins to register. More at www.mukilteoschools.org.