A member of the school board told the newspaper that the decision was made last week, and was not voted on by the board.
“There were complaints about it,” said school board vice president Kenny Holloway. “There is some language in the book that makes people uncomfortable, and we can teach the same lesson with other books.”
Holloway said the book will remain in school libraries, but will no longer be taught to eighth-grade students in the district.
Lee's 1960 novel about a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman, which won the Pulitzer Prize, has been a staple in classrooms for decades. But it has also been challenged or banned in schools and libraries for a variety of reasons, including the novel's use of the N-word in its portrayal of the bigotry of a small Southern town.
According to the American Library Assn., the novel has been challenged in recent years in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. It ranked No. 21 on the ALA's list of the most banned or challenged books from 2000 to 2009.
Arthur McMillan, the superintendent of Biloxi Public Schools, told the Sun Herald that the school district “always [strives] to do what is best for our students and staff to continue to perform at the highest level.”
“There are many resources and materials that are available to teach state academic standards to our students,” he said in a statement. “These resources may change periodically.”
In an editorial, the Sun Herald blasted the school district for being “less than forthcoming with an explanation" about why the book was removed.
“Acting as if race is no longer a factor in our society is part of the problem. Acting as if it is too difficult or offensive to talk about is part of the problem,” the editorial board wrote. “The majority of the students shouldn’t be forced to miss this opportunity for the sake of those offended.”
On Twitter, admirers of the book made it clear they were unhappy with the school district's decision: