Classic American novels "To Kill A Mockingbird" and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" have been temporarily pulled from Accomack County Public Schools in Virginia following a parent's complaint about racial slurs.
On Nov. 15, an Accomack County mother asked that the novels be removed from the high school curriculum after her mixed-race son was unable to complete a page of “Huckleberry Finn” on which the N-word appeared seven times, WAVY reports.
The mother says the works are “great literature,” but the harmful language -- which appears 219 times in Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and 48 times in Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" -- is sending the wrong message to children in school.
“There [are so many] racial slurs in there and offensive wording that you can't get past that," the mother said in an audio recording of the Nov. 15 meeting. “We’re validating that these words are acceptable, and they are not acceptable by any means.”
Victoria Coombs, a mother of two students in Accomack County, mirrored the other mother’s concerns, saying, “It’s not right to put that in a book, let alone read that to a child.”
Other members of Accomack County have staunchly opposed the parent’s complaint, with claims that banning a classic for offensive language can be a slippery slope.
An informal Twitter poll run by WAVY anchor Katie Collett asked whether the public school district should ban the classics, and found it was opposed by 96 percent, based on 464 votes.
“Banning books is the first step, burning books the next," commented one Twitter user. "These books could teach children that racial bias is wrong."
Another user agreed the academic benefits of the books outweigh the impact of the slurs, saying, “Even though our history might be bad or uncomfortable today, it's history. Learn from it and don't repeat it!”
The mother who complained proposed a committee staffed by parents and teachers of different cultural backgrounds to come together to develop a list of books that are inclusive to all students, offering to donate books and raise funds in case of budgetary concerns, according to WPXI.
The “request for reconsideration of learning resources” submitted by the parent will be evaluated before a committee composed of a principal, librarian and teacher, which will then make a recommendation to the superintendent.
Superintendent Warren Holland has no set date for when the recommendation will be made.