The William S. Hart Union High School District has “unpaused” two books — “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Huckleberry Finn” — that had been removed from a mandatory reading list due to concerns about their content.
The books had been in a literature limbo since early this year, available in the library but paused from being part of the district’s reading curriculum.
According to Dave Caldwell, a spokesman for the Hart district, a group was assembled by Director of Curriculum and Assessment David LeBarron. The goal was to evaluate the reading list of books English teachers have access to teach.
The “pause” came in response to concerns that the books might contain material offensive to some people, and district officials wanted to ensure that things are being looked at through a more modern lens.
“Some folks had objected to certain language that was being used in some of the books. So a group of parents, students, teachers, administrators, all came together, talked about it,” Caldwell said.
There were multiple meetings during the spring with the task force working on a new protocol to examine the books and review the curriculum reading list.
“They were still in the libraries, but they were just not part of the reading list, temporarily. And they’ve since been put back on,” Caldwell said.
Each school is allowed to create its guidelines based on the criteria from the task force with the help of the school’s department chair and administrator.
There are subtle differences with each school creating their guidelines and creating a precedent, allowing other schools in the district to adopt identical or similar guidelines, according to Caldwell.
The Aug. 4 district board agenda stated the need for special training to teach the books’ sensitive material. The school district uses teachers on special assignments to introduce materials and train other teachers.
“They will work within that group to make certain that standards are being addressed and standards are being met,” Caldwell said.
Historically, other books went before the board with parents objecting to the specific curriculum being taught, and as a result some were either no longer taught in junior high school or removed entirely, according to Caldwell.
“Parents have every right to step in and say, ‘I question whether or not this should be done,’” Caldwell said about the process for parents.
The current review of the books stemmed from concerns coming from parents feeling the content is inappropriate for their children, according to Caldwell.
According to Caldwell, “Of Mice and Men,” which also has been paused, is expected to go before the board in an upcoming meeting.
Board President Cherise Moore deferred comment to LeBarron, who did not respond to a request for comment.