Educators in British Columbia think that classic books like To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee are too offensive for Grade 10 students.

A number of books have been quietly banned from the reading curriculum for Grade 10 students at the Surrey School District based on concerns that the books are too controversial and not inclusive. 

The removed books are To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie and In the Heat of the Night by John Ball.

A panel of 12 teachers decided to pull titles from the recommended reading curriculum last November. 

While the books will still remain in school libraries, they will no longer be part of the curriculum’s recommended reading list.

“We received a lot of feedback from families of students not feeling safe in the classroom when these resources were used,” the board’s communications officer Ritinder Matthew told Global News on Thursday. 

A review of the four aforementioned books was conducted over a year ago as a result of negative feedback from parents and other community members. 

The review described the “portrayal of Black characters as one-dimensional, the use of the white saviour trope, the use of ableist language, the use of the N-word, noting it’s normalized in the text and not necessarily used as a slur, but often as another word for Black people. And that’s completely offensive and inappropriate,” when discussing To Kill a Mockingbird.

The books have been replaced by the following titles for the updated recommended reading list. Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, Brother by David Chariandy, The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.

“They give agency and voice to characters that are from historically racialized, marginalized or underrepresented groups who are in positions of power, strength or resiliency,” said Matthew.

While teachers are still permitted to read the previous books with their classes, they are obligated to adhere to the district’s policies.

These policies include fostering “inclusivity” and to “respond to the impacts of trauma and do not further traumatize students from marginalized and/or racialized communities.”

Additionally, teachers must “convey narratives, histories, and perspectives related to race, gender, class, diverse abilities, and other markers of identity.”

Education Minister Rachna Singh said she will speak with the Surrey school district regarding its recent decisions to remove the books from the list. 

“I know as a parent that this is what I want my children to (do): read the classics as I did, growing up,” Singh told Global News. 

“But at the same time, I want not only my child but other students to be introduced to other authors as well. And that’s why I know school districts make those decisions.”

B.C. Premier David Eby called the decision “crazy,” saying he hopes the board will reconsider the move. 

“With a single Google search, you can access the most offensive, explicit, racist, awful, extreme content,” said Eby. “With apps on their phones, predators from around the world can reach down to your kid’s phone and take advantage of your child, who is not prepared to respond to that, who hasn’t been given the educational tools to respond to that.

“I think that we all need to focus on the actual threats that are facing our kids.”

BC United Leader Kevin Falcon called the situation “unbelievable.”

To Kill a Mockingbird, you know, Of Mice and Men. I mean, these are literary classics that teach important stories about racism and the realities of life at a different time in the early 1900s or during the Depression,” said Falcon.

“We can’t have a situation that seems to be just exploding under this government. I don’t know if it’s ‘wokeism’ gone wild or what’s happening, but we can’t have books like that taken out of the school system. I think it’s wrong.”