Shorewood students protest school after 'To Kill a Mockingbird' canceled for use of the N-word

Posted at 5:18 PM, Oct 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-12 18:53:30-04

Some Shorewood High School students protested the school's decision to cancel their performance of 'To Kill A Mockingbird', which was scheduled to run October 11-13. 

The district announced Thursday the scheduled shows would not happen due to concerns over protests of the use of the N-word in the play.

"The school, or the administrative board, killed our mockingbird, so to say," said Jaden Schultz, who wore yellow tape on her arm.  The tape read "What would Atticus do?" and across her chest another piece of tape said "It's a sin to kill a Mockingbird," a quote from the play. Schultz was on the tech team for the show.

"I personally approve of the use of the word in there," said Taylor Steward, a tenth-grader who wasn't in the show. But, he and his friend felt a small change would have solved the issue, rather than canceling.

"I don't think they should have canceled, I think they should have found an alternative word maybe," tenth-grader Ryan Harm said.

TODAY'S TMJ4 received a video students planned to show before the play explaining their choice to use the N-word in the show.

"It hurts to say it," said a group of white students. "It hurts to hear it," echo a group of African-American students. "We need to address racism to change racism," both groups said together.

It's a debate that's attracted national eyes-including an anti-censorship advocate. Howard Sherman from the Arts Integrity Initiative at the New School of Drama has been part of similar debates before. 

"If this is simply a desire to not have this particular story told, that starts to smack of censorship," he said. He said concerns over the use of the N-word, however, are legitimate, especially, he said, in a school context.

The school sent out the following statement Friday, one day after the decision to cancel the play:

The Board is committed to serving all of our students. Sadly, in the current circumstances regarding the production of To Kill a Mockingbird, there is no single outcome that can satisfy all of the many interests and concerns involved.  

As our administration worked today to navigate the complexity of the many issues surrounding the cancellation of To Kill A Mockingbird, they met with students, staff, parents and community members to listen, learn and identify a path forward together.  

Though we had hoped to announce today how we plan to move forward, a decision of this magnitude requires a very thoughtful approach. The work continues as we try to find a viable solution and we will provide an update in the coming days.