The Burbank Unified School District has temporarily banned its teachers from including in their curriculum several classic novels that deal with race, pending a report from a review committee and a final district decision on the volumes.
The novels are "To Kill a Mockingbird," by Harper Lee; "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," by Mark Twain; "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry," by Mildred D. Taylor; and "Of Mice and Men," by John Steinbeck.
Four parents have complained about the books, saying they could harm black children attending Burbank schools. One parent who filed a complaint said her daughter, who is black, was the target of racial insults that other students learned from the books.
Reportedly, one boy called her a pejorative term that included the "N-word" and was found in one of the books. Another boy reportedly told the girl, "My family used to own your family and now I want a dollar from each of you for the week."
Another black parent called the books "problematic" and said that "there's no counter-narrative to this black person dealing with racism and a white person saving them."
The National Coalition Against Censorship, PEN America, and a Burbank High School student have pushed back against the ban. Proponents of the books argue that the classics help to initiate and inform important discussions on race.
"In a time where racism has become more transparent than ever, we need to continue to educate students as to the roots of it; to create anti-racist students," wrote Burbank student Sungjoon Yoo in an online petition advocating for the books. "These literatures, of which have been declared 'Books that Shaped America' by the Library of Congress, won Newbury [sic] Medals, and are some of the most influential pieces, cannot disappear."
A review committee was supposed to submit a report on the matter to the district superintendent by November 13. A final district decision on the books will follow the report. The decision can be appealed.