Superintendent Arthur McMillan, speaking outside the administration building Monday, said the Biloxi School District never removed “To Kill A Mockingbird” from the middle school library or reading list.
And eighth graders who want to study the book now have a choice to attend a special book study.
He would not answer questions about why the book was taken from the regular lesson plan for the second, nine-week term. He went back to his original statement that the school district changes material periodically.
The school website had “Mockingbird” listed as a book the classes would study in the second term. But a school board member confirmed that after parental complaints, the school district decided to find another book to fill “Mockingbird’s” slot. The issue was a racially charged word that appears in dialogue in the book about 50 times. The book, a popular American classic, is set in the 1930s and deals with rape and racial inequality in a small Southern town, as narrated by a 10-year-old.
The school district was early into the second term when the change was made.
“We decided to use other resources for the second nine weeks,” McMillan said. “We haven’t done away with the book, students still have the book to read. And if students want to, teachers are going to do a book study with them on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so the students still have the book and the book is still in the library.”
He told the Sun Herald and WXXV, “I’m not understanding really, what the big controversy is.”
A Sun Herald report that the book was pulled from the eighth grade lesson plan because a few parents were not comfortable with language in the book made national headlines over the weekend. Some media reported Biloxi schools banned the book.
“The deal is, ever so often, we change reading materials to teach state objectives, and that’s what we did,” McMillan said.
He stressed, “teachers will do a book study for the students who want to do a book study ... if the students want to do a book study on it. We’re not going to force them to come do it.”
He said it is still on the schools’ AR reading list, where students read and are tested on books for a special grade.
“It was part of the lesson plan for the first nine weeks and we changed material,” he said.
When asked how many parents complained, McMillan went back to his statement and said, “We’ve changed resources and materials to teach the second nine weeks.”
When asked if he followed school policy and set up a committee to review the complaints, he walked away.