MUKILTEO — The Mukilteo school board will consider Monday 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 via Zoom at the 6 p.m. meeting at the District Office, 9401 Sharon Dr. in Everett. This 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 program,” District Superintendent Alison Brynelson said in a statement. “We recognize the strong feelings and varied perspectives around this topic.”
It stems from a citizen request made to the principal of Kamiak Secondary School which was evaluated by the district teaching materials committee.
Reasons for the request included: “Marginalizes and gives little voice or agency to characters of color. Celebrates white salvation and tells the story through the white perspective only. Uses the “n” word almost 50 times and never treats it as derogatory. Does not support equity and inclusion goals.
Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel tells the story of a white lawyer defending a black man wrongfully accused of rape in 1930s Alabama and uses dialogue from the era. The theme is prejudice and the loss of innocence.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” has been controversial for 60 years, but remains required reading in many schools nationwide, despite several districts having banned it, along with “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “Of Mice and Men,” and “The Catcher in the Rye.”
Mukilteo’s instructional committee recommends that the novel be removed from the required curriculum, but remain on the list of approved novels for teachers to use.
The committee is made up of about 20 teachers, librarians, administrators, parents and community members who heard arguments from both sides before making a decision. The reasons for keeping the book were: “Deleting 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 that the book should be removed from the ninth grade English curriculum, but not to ban it in the classroom.
Monday’s meeting is due to present the findings to the council, which is tentatively expected to make a decision on Jan. 24.
“This request to remove a novel and the feedback we received has given us an opportunity to reflect on our program procedures that will help us with future program adoptions,” Brynelson said. “Through this process, we heard teachers’ desire to engage in professional learning about how to teach culturally sensitive novels to their students.
Those wishing to comment via Zoom have up to two hours before the start of the meeting to register. More information at www.mukilteoschools.org.