ABSECON, N.J. — Bowing to a parent's complaint, school officials have stricken a book from an elementary school's Black History Month reading list because it contains a racial slur.
"The teachers may see this as an example of something they can help fix, but we believe at fourth grade the children do not have the maturity to truly understand it," said parent Lisa Rex, whose complaint prompted the action.
Published in 1995, The Well by Mildred D. Taylor is about a black family in early 20th-century Mississippi that has the town's only working well and shares their water with neighbors, including members of a white family who use the racial epithet.
The Well had been included on a list for students at the H. Ashton Marsh School. The Board of Education voted on Jan. 24 to remove it pending a review by a committee of faculty members and citizens about whether it is appropriate for use at all, The Press of Atlantic City reported on Jan. 25.
"We will respect the concerns presented and hold off on reading the book," said Schools Superintendent James Giaquinto.
Fourth-grade teacher Terry Maher said the students who were to read it had already been taught about the mistreatment of certain groups of people.
"The word is not taught in the book, the word is hated in the book," Maher said. "The book has gotten rave reviews. We would be sorry to lose it."
But one parent who turned out for the board meeting said it was wrong to let children read a book containing the slur.
"If children hear it, and are allowed to read it in class, it legitimizes it," said Robert Preston. "It gives them ammunition to tease others, without really understanding."
Taylor's novel Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, which won the prestigious Newberry Award in 1977, also has been challenged in other school districts because it includes racial epithets.