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Family wants classic novel removed from freshman curriculum in Wisconsin school

Racial slurs are demeaning to children of color
Posted at 2:48 PM, Jan 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-21 01:50:38-05

COTTAGE GROVE, Wis. -  A Wisconsin couple filed a formal petition with Monona Grove School District over concerns they have about Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" being taught as part of the high school English curriculum, according to WISC-TV.

Tujama and Jeannine Kameeta from Cottage Grove has a 14-year-old son who is a freshman at Monona Grove High School. After reading the book, Tujama Kameeta was shocked to learn how often racial slurs were used.

"Imagine sitting in a classroom. Put yourself in the shoes of a child of color and hearing the n-word being spoken over and over. That's very demeaning. And I do not want my children to be exposed to that," he said.

Monona Grove Superintendent Daniel Olson confirmed to WISC-TV that the district is reviewing the Kameetas' request, and a committee will make a recommendation to the superintendent.

Tim Twohill, an instructor in the Department of English at Madison Area Technical College, said the book is controversial because of many of the themes it explores.

"The book covers such topics as not only racial segregation and racism but there's violence," Twohill said. "A character is murdered, and it's unjust. There's a rape that occurs, there's incest in this book."

The book has been challenged and banned countless times since it was published in 1960. The novel tells the story of 5-year-old Scout Finch as she grows up during the Great Depression. Her father, Atticus, is a lawyer representing Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping and beating a white woman.

Kameeta argued the book violates Monona Grove School District's policies related to discrimination and harassment. They requested that other parents with similar concerns contact the district.

Tom McCarthy, communications director for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, said a district's curriculum is directed by the local school board, and a parent with concerns about the curriculum would need to petition the school board and request that a modification is made.