Censorship or Protection: Hart District’s Pause on Classic Books


Photo by Kelly Zarate

This year, the Hart District has put a pause to many beloved classic literature books due to the racial slurs and stereotypes portrayed.

For many years, Hart District students have been reading beloved classics like, Of Mice and Men, Huckleberry Finn, and To Kill a Mockingbird. These books are not being taught throughout the Hart District this year and whether they will make an appearance in next year’s curriculum is still uncertain. 

In an interview with Saugus English teacher, Andrea Molina, she explained that even though these books’ messages are against racism, many of them have racist depictions of African Americans and there is a constant use of racial slurs. She also stated that students could be damaged by having these racial slurs presented in a classroom or having these words thrown at them outside school. 

Molina explained that as a woman of Latina descent, she would prefer to have books written by women, different cultures, races, and ethnicities taught in the Hart District: “Even though Huckleberry Finn and To Kill A Mockingbird have great value to them, it is important for students to read literature with different perspectives.”

Currently, there is a committee working on the new standards for books that will be taught in the Hart District. If a book should not fall under the guidelines, then the book will not be taught. English teacher, Vilo Del Rio, is a member of the committee who explains “Various teachers from different schools high schools and junior highs are really doing a good effort in wanting to incorporate many voices into this situation. They have parents, students, and district personnel.” Although the criteria has not been created yet, the voices of many members of the Hart District are being heard to construct it. 

During interviews, both teachers shared their opinion on the pause of these classic books. Molina agrees with the pause on teaching these books because many of her students have experienced racism and have been named under the racial slurs that are constantly said throughout the books. She explains “The repetition of the n-word can be damaging to students,” which is why Molina stopped having her students read Huckleberry Finn years ago. 

When asked if the book pause was an act of censorship, she replied “The intention is not to censor, but to protect students and those who are experiencing racism in the classroom.” Although Molina agrees with the pause on these books, she believes that Huckleberry Finn and To Kill A Mockingbird are classic books with great messages for young adults. Her opinion clearly states that books that are taught in the Hart District should come from diverse perspectives of a variety of people. 

On the other hand, Del Rio does not agree with the “book ban” and considers it as an act of censorship to a specific point: “It’s censored to a certain extent. It’s not an absolute censorship and I don’t think it’s a permanent censorship, but this year every freshman in the Hart District will be robbed from being taught from these masterpieces that actually teach the ugliness and injustice of racism. Skilled teachers have used these books to emphasize the importance of diversity and acceptance. As a Latino myself, I find it tragically ironic that no freshman this year will have these life-changing literary experiences with these masterpieces.” Del Rio believes that books with more diverse authors should get recognition in the Hart District curriculum, but getting rid of students To Kill A Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, and Huckleberry Finn should not be taken out of the classroom in order to do so. 

Although Del Rio believes this is an act of censorship, he doesn’t believe that this is the intention of the Hart District: “I don’t believe they are blind since they’re not permanently censoring […] and then we will see if it will continue to be a book that is censored for students.” Del Rio claims that the books have not completely been taken out of schools. Therefore, it isn’t entirely an act of censorship. 

Even though students are not able to read these classic works of literature in the classroom, they are available in libraries in schools throughout the Hart District. In the future, students may not be reading Huckleberry Finn, To Kill A Mockingbird, or Of Mice and Men in the classroom but the District is not planning on removing these books from school libraries. Although there are many perspectives about the “book ban,” these collective works will be valued for years to come and can still be read by any student who has the desire.