Over the weekend, a media story ran regarding the district’s work to review and update required reading lists at the high school level. The story ran while in the middle of the process, which has and will include feedback from teachers, curriculum staff, administrators, students and the Board.
While no final decision has been reached, we would like to provide additional context given information currently circulating.
Early in the review process concerns from students were raised about three books: “Of Mice and Men,” “Absolutely True Stories of a Part-Time Indian,” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.” In particular, the books contain use of the N-word, and as part of instruction are regularly read aloud in classrooms. Students from all racial groups have expressed disturbing and distressing experiences in classes covering these books. In fact, some students report not attending classes on days the books are read aloud in order to evade the classroom experience that accompanies the text.
Moving forward, additional feedback is being gathered about both texts being used in coursework and the instructional delivery methods by which course content is delivered. The goal is to create a learning environment that is challenging and complex, engaging and thought-provoking, classic and contemporary – all while doing everything in our power to eliminate instances in which students feel that marginalization is occurring, which has been stated in feedback received from students about lessons including these books. This work will continue with those goals in mind.
There has never been a conversation about banning books. Banning books suggests efforts to restrict access to works of literature, which will not happen. Whether or not a book remains in the curriculum, each book in question would remain in school libraries and accessible to students.