The Hilton School District is aware of language that recently appeared in print during a lesson in an English 10 class that caused concern and offense to members of our school community. The language was used in context with the book To Kill a Mockingbird, a literary selection that has been taught at the high school level for many years. The book sparks conversations that are indeed uncomfortable, but the district believes these conversations need to occur in a safe environment that allows all to participate. While we want to be respectful in never speaking these offensive words, we want our students to learn about why these words have negative connotations.
The slide in question is one part of a presentation preparing students to read the classic text that is narrated by a six-year-old girl, Scout Finch, who lives in Maycomb, Alabama in the 1930s. Through her eyes, the reader experiences the court case of Tom Robinson, a person of color wrongly accused of a crime, and the wisdom of her father, Atticus Finch, who is the defense attorney for Mr. Robinson.
There were several steps taken by the instructor in order to prepare the class for the racial slurs and controversial themes in the book. The objective of the lesson was to ensure students understand the difference between the connotation and denotation of words. The lesson moves from commonly used words to unacceptable terms. Prior to displaying the slide in question, the instructor offered all students the opportunity to leave the room without any ramifications or judgment. The instructor numbered the words on the slide to serve as a code so that everyone could refer to the words without saying them out loud. The closure for the lesson prompts students to consider, “Why might it be important to discuss these labels and their context and connotation before starting To Kill a Mockingbird?”
The Hilton School District’s equity work includes opportunities to empower learners to be agents of positive social change. The curriculum provides the opportunity to learn about perspectives beyond one’s own scope. The Hilton School District will continue with its equity and inclusivity work in earnest and will keep our learning community informed as we move forward.
Director of Communications
Hilton Central School District