Mississippi school district pulls ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ because it ‘makes people uncomfortable’

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Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” was removed from a Mississippi school district lesson plan because the book’s language made some people feel uneasy.

Administrators at the Biloxi School District announced early this week they were pulling the novel from the 8th-grade curriculum, saying they received complaints that some of the book’s language “makes people uncomfortable.”

The Sun Herald reported that the book was pulled from the lesson plan because the novel contained “the N word.”

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A message on the school’s website says “To Kill A Mockingbird” teaches students that compassion and empathy don’t depend upon race or education.

School board vice president Kenny Holloway says other books can teach the same lessons.

However, the book will still be available in Biloxi school libraries.

The novel, published in 1960, chronicled the adventures of Jean Louise Finch aka Scout and her brother Jeremy aka Jem and the racial inequality that existed in their small Alabama town. The book followed a court case their father, Atticus, was involved in.

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In the story, Atticus defended Tom Robinson, a black man who was accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a young white woman. Despite strong evidence of Robinson’s innocence, he was found guilty of raping Ewell.

The book was adapted into a movie in 1962, starring Gregory Peck, who won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Atticus Finch. 

The Sun Herald reported the novel was listed at No. 21 on the American Library Association’s most “banned or challenged books list in the last decade.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Johannesburg Travel Guide part 3: the trendy Maboneng district



Maboneng is one of the trendiest districts of Johannesburg. Full of restaurant hotspots and cool coffee bars. We stayed at the 12 Decades Hotel in Maboneng …

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ACLU taps tech to help the public hold district attorneys accountable to criminal justice reform

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Many people don’t pay much attention to their district attorneys, let alone realize district attorneys are elected officials, says Ana Zamora, the criminal justice policy director at the ACLU of Northern California.

That was the genesis for MeetYourDA. The campaign, which launched today, aims to build power in local communities to hold district attorneys accountable to criminal justice reform and put district attorney races on the map, Zamora said. MeetYourDA, a collaborative effort between the ACLU and Elefint Design, makes it easy for constituents to learn who their county’s district attorney is and how they stand on certain policy issues. Through the MeetYourDA platform, constituents can easily contact their DAs.

The MeetYourDA project came into fruition thanks to a design sprint, dubbed DesignIt, over Memorial Day weekend where a group of product designers from Facebook, Glassdoor and other tech companies volunteered their time to help the ACLU. The sprint was organized by Elefint Designs, which brought together 16 designers and strategists to work alongside Zamora to launch a new criminal justice reform initiative. Without the sprint, MeetYourDA would not have been possible, Zamora says.

“I could tell you that it would not have been financially possible for me to have this level of design and the interactive website and the custom website and then this incredible motion graphic,” Zamora says. “None of that would have been possible with the budget for this project and I think it just would’ve been a very different product. What we’re trying to achieve with this campaign is very difficult. The only way to be successful is through really smart design and design is really focused on user experience. Just to be very blunt, this would not have been possible without DesignIt.”

The site kicks off with a motion graphic narrated by Grammy award-winning artist John Legend. In it, Legend explains what a DA does, how much power they have and how they are the most powerful elected official you probably didn’t know about.

“It’s really important to understand and to be engaged with what a DA is,” Miki Setlur, a Facebook product designer who volunteered his time to build MeetYourDA, told me. “Right from the get-go, that video tells the story of what a DA is. The visuals really support how much power they have. The biggest thing we want to convey is what a DA is and how much power they have.”

District attorneys have the power to decide if charges get filed, who gets the criminal charges filed against them and how severe those charges are. That’s why MeetYourDA wants to empower local communities to hold their DAs accountable. The first step, of course, is to better understand what a DA does. Immediately after Legend’s intro, MeetYourDA presents a concrete definition of a DA.

“This is a really important part — the definition,” Zamora said. “People have this idea where they believe that the job of a DA and/or prosecutor is to send people to jail or prison. We’re pushing back on that as a myth because a DA is a public servant and their job is to seek justice and not to put people behind bars.”

The site goes on to explain just how powerful DAs are in the criminal justice system. When a police officer kills a community member, for example, it’s up to the DA to decide whether to investigate the officer and hold them accountable. In order to build empathy and recognize DAs face tough decisions, the site offers up some scenarios and asks what you would do.

The next step is to meet your county’s district attorney. San Francisco’s district attorney, for example, is George Gascón. Thanks to MeetYourDA, we can quickly see where Gascón stands on policy issues ranging from the legalization of marijuana to increased parole chances for some people in prison.

The ACLU’s MeetYourDA campaign comes in time for the California primary election in June 2018, when almost every district attorney in the state (56 out of 58) will be up for reelection. If you live in California, head on over to MeetYourDA to learn more about your county’s district attorney.

Featured Image: Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for TBS/Getty Images

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Two gay Missouri teens say school district deleted ‘offensive’ quotes from yearbook

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Two Missouri teenagers who are openly gay said their school district deleted their quotes from the school’s yearbook without their knowledge.

Joey Slavinsky and Thomas Swartz said they were shocked to see the Kearney School District has removed their quotes from the year book and left instead a blank space underneath their photos, KCTV 5 reported.

“I went to find my quote in the yearbook but nothing was there,” Swartz told KCTV 5. “It was a blank picture under my name.”

The two young men said they chose quotes that were related to their sexuality.

“Mine was, ‘Of course I dress well. I didn’t spend all that time in the closet for nothing,’” Slavinsky said.

Swartz said his quote was: “If ‘Harry Potter’ taught us anything, it’s that no one should have to live in the closet.”

The school district claimed the quotes were offensive although the two young men believe the district was incorrect.

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The Kearney School District told Fox News that it contacted the teenagers and their families to apologize.

The school district said in a statement: “District administrators were made aware of concerns regarding the removal of senior quotes from the school yearbook. Each year, graduating seniors are provided an opportunity to pick a favorite quote to be placed in the yearbook. In an effort to protect our students, quotes that could potentially offend another student or groups of students are not published.”

“It is the school’s practice to err on the side of caution. Doing so in this case had the unintentional consequence of offending the very students the practice was designed to protect. We sincerely apologize to those students.”

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“All KSD staff understand the importance of inclusion and acceptance especially in an educational setting. We work diligently to help every student feel safe, supported, and included. District staff participate in ongoing training around issues of diversity and support student organizations that do the same. That being said, we acknowledge our mistake and will use it as a learning opportunity to improve in the future.”

The statement was signed by the school’s principal Dave Schwarzenbach and the district’s superintendent, Bill Nicely. It’s unclear if other quotes were removed from the school’s yearbook.

“They need to know what they do is wrong,” Swartz said. “I want to tell my story about what happened.”    

Swartz and Slavinsky said they intend to make labels with their intended quotes and stick them in their friend’s yearbooks.

“I’m proud to be from Kearney and I’m proud to be who I am,” Slavinsky said. “I’m just disappointed at what happened.”  

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