Monona Grove School Board votes to retain ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ in curriculum

May 11, 2018

The Monona Grove School Board voted to retain “To Kill a Mockingbird” in the district’s curriculum Wednesday after Cottage Grove parents appealed their call to have the Harper Lee novel removed from the ninth-grade English classroom teaching.

Board members voted 6-1 to uphold a previous recommendation that retains “To Kill a Mockingbird” in the curriculum, while also allowing the English department to further examine the novel, the context it is taught, other equivalent readings and other ways the book could be used in class.

Board President Peter Sobol was the lone dissenting vote to retain the book, while members Jeff Simpson and Andrew McKinney had argued to make the book an optional read.

In December, Tujama and Jeannine Kameeta, whose son is a freshman at Monona Grove High School, filed a complaint against the book, arguing it created a white savior motif where the black characters were passive bystanders to their exploitation.

The Kameetas were seeking to get the novel, which was published in 1960 and includes dozens of racial slurs throughout, removed from the freshman English class at Monona Grove High School.

A committee was formed to review the complaint and voted 4-1 in February to retain the novel with further examination by the English department.

The Kameetas then appealed the committee’s decision to the School Board.

Being one member short, the School Board deadlocked last month on a 3-3 vote to uphold the committee’s decision.

Several Monona Grove teachers spoke in support of keeping the book in the curriculum.

“It is critical that the School Board and district administrators continue to trust the English department,” said Jeremy Duss, who has taught at the district for 11 years. “Let’s not set a precedent as a community that bans books and avoids difficult topics.”

Others, though, said the School Board represents minority students along with its teachers and asked the board to empathize with the experience of students of color.

“We are asking that you start to treat minority kids the way you treat white kids,” Tujama Kameeta said at the meeting.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” takes places in a fictional Southern town in the 1930s and chronicles the efforts of a white lawyer trying to exonerate a poor black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman.