In an effort to be considerate of all students, the two novels, which contain racial slurs, will no longer be required reading in the district's English classes next school year.
There wasn't a specific complaint that triggered the decision, but it was a response to complaints about the books' use of a racial slur that the district has faced for a number of years, Cary said. Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn", a story about a poor white boy and a slave, most recently made the list in 2015, when a group of students in Montgomery County in Pennsylvania said its use of the n-word made them uncomfortable.
"We felt that we could still teach the same standards and expectations through other novels that didn't require students to feel humiliated or marginalized by the use of racial slurs", Michael Cary, director of curriculum and instruction for the district, told the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. The Biloxi School District later backtracked, allowing students to read the book if they wanted to - but only if their parents allowed it.
Changes are coming at Duluth Public Schools when it comes to required reading lists for students. The district's use of the books as required reading has been an ongoing discussion between elders in the local NAACP and district leaders for years, Witherspoon said.
"We're doing this out of consideration of the impacts on our students and specifically different groups of students in our schools, and especially our communities of color", Cary said. "On the contrary, the classroom is where the history, use and destructiveness of this language should be examined and discussed". Numerous challenges of "To Kill a Mockingbird" over the decades have come from black parents concerned about a book containing a racial slur being used in the classroom, according to the ALA. "Therefore I enclose a small contribution to the Beadle Bumble Fund that I hope will be used to enroll the Hanover County School Board in any first grade of its choice".
The American Library Association listed the book as the 21st most banned or challenged book from 2000 to 2009, with "Huckleberry Finn" topping it as the 14th most banned or challenged book in that decade.
The classic novels will be replaced with other, yet-to-be-determined books. There are other novels with similar messages that can be taught, he said.
Carey said Duluth teachers will be "key" in helping to select new texts.