Mississippi School to Allow 'To Kill A Mockingbird' to Be Optional After Backlash

Image: Harper Lee's  "To Kill A Mockingbird" on display at Barnes & Noble
Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird"Laura Cavanaugh / Getty Images file

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By Chandelis R. Duster

A Mississippi school that gained national attention after removing "To Kill A Mockingbird" from its eighth-grade required reading list will now allow the novel to be taught as an option.

Biloxi Junior High School, in Biloxi, Mississippi, removed the book originally after complaints of offensive language earlier this month. But in a letter to parents and students on Monday, the school's principal, Scott Powell, said the novel will be an optional read for students and not be a requirement.

“As has been stated before, “To Kill A Mockingbird” is not a requiredread for 8th Grade ELA (English Language Arts) students,” the letter says according to the Sun Herald newspaper. “However, 8th Grade ELA teachers will offer the opportunity for interested students to participate in an in-depth book study of the novel during regularly scheduled classes as well as the optional after school sessions ...”

A man holds a copy of Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird"Tim Boyle / Getty Images file

Related: Mississippi School Board Pulls ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ From Reading List

A school administration official who confirmed the letter to NBC News said students who wish to continue reading the book must return a permission form signed by a parent to the school by Friday. The students will also write an argumentative essay that will compare characters and events in the book to the film. However, students who choose not to read the book will be given another assignment and different topic for their essay.

School officials removed the book from the required reading list after complaints about wording in the book. The move sparked a national debate about censorship and racism in schools.

The optional book study will begin Monday, Oct. 30.

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