Hart district puts ‘pause’ on handful of literary classics due to parent,student concerns

The William S. Hart Union High School District office
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The William S. Hart Union HIgh School District has put a “pause” on a handful of literary classics after receiving concerns from both parents and students regarding their content. 

Three of the books that have been placed on pause, or have been removed for now from the mandatory reading list, include novels such as “Of Mice and Men,” “Huckleberry Finn” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

All three works have been taught to generations of students since their respective publications, each dealing with issues of racism and prejudice. 

“Usually, we get parents or students who may voice some concerns, complaints about certain books that are being read,” said Dave Caldwell, a spokesman for the district. “Those books have always kind of been considered, and we’ve said, ‘OK, should we be having these books on our mandatory reading list? Should we not?’”

Caldwell said the decision to put the books on hold did not mean that they would be removed from site libraries, with students able to still check them out. But the books had been removed from the list that teachers are asked to draw from when selecting materials for their curricula. 

“What is being done now is trying to create a new adoption process, getting input from teachers, students and parents. And then having those books go through that process,” said Caldwell. “Once this process has been finalized, then those books … that have been put on pause, they will be the first to go through this process and determine should they continue to be on the mandatory reading list or not.”

Caldwell said no timeline had been established for when the books would be decided upon permanently, and that the district was still in the process of putting together the selection criteria for the works. Caldwell said the decision to move forward with the pause was one made last year by the district, and the governing board had been informed of the decision. 

Temporarily removing the books from the mandatory reading list was not directly related to this past summer’s events, where hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the street across the nation in response to the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers over Memorial Day weekend, but Caldwell said that it was a factor in the district’s decision. 

“But throughout the year with all books, parents will contact us and say, ‘I’ve got some concerns about this particular book,’ for whatever reasons it may be,’” said Caldwell. “There were more and more people voicing concerns about it. And so that’s when we were like, ‘OK, we need to pull these off and let’s come up with a new process and a new lens because we’re in 2021 now.’”

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