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“To Kill A Mockingbird,” Other Books Banned From California Schools Over Racism Concerns

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Schools in Burbank will no longer be able to teach a handful of classic novels, including Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, following concerns raised by parents over racism.

Middle and high school English teachers in the Burbank Unified School District received the news during a virtual meeting on September 9.

Until further notice, teachers in the area will not be able to include on their curriculum Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, Theodore Taylor’s The Cay and Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.

Four parents, three of whom are Black, challenged the classic novels for alleged potential harm to the district’s roughly 400 Black students.

All but Huckleberry Finn have been required reading for students in the district.

Carmenita Helligar said her daughter, Destiny, was approached by a white student in math class using a racial taunt including the N-word, which he’d learned from reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry while both attended the David Starr Jordan Middle School.

“My family used to own your family and now I want a dollar from each of you for the week,” another boy is said to have told Destiny.

Helligar, who is one of the parents who filed a complaint in the case, claimed the boy’s excuse was that he had read it in class and the principal had been dismissive of the incident.

“My daughter was literally traumatized,” Helligar said. “These books are problematic … you feel helpless because you can’t even protect your child from the hurt that she’s going through.”

Nadra Ostrom, another Black parent who filed a complaint, argued that the portrayal of Black people is mostly from a white perspective.

“There’s no counter-narrative to this Black person dealing with racism and a white person saving them,” she said.

Ostrom added that the current education given to students assumes “that racism is something in the past.”

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