To Kill To Kill a Mockingbird

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To Kill a Mockingbird. Of Mice and Men. Catcher in the Rye. These novels are generally recognized as among the best literature to come out of the U.S. in the 20th century.

But the masterpieces also happen to be banned from many school districts.

"They've stood the test of time. That's why they're classics," the American Library Association's Judith Krug said. "To say to young people, even to older people, that you can't read these materials (is) a travesty because they're missing out on some of the finest literature written in the U.S."

In Texas, a reverend is making a push to ban Of Mice and Men. In Brunswick, Ga., the school board is discussing getting rid of Catcher in the Rye. And in Oklahoma, To Kill a Mockingbird has already been removed. Those modern classics and seven other books have come under routine fire for profane language, unpleasant racial themes and references to homosexuality.

"There are some books that I really don't think belong in the hands of certain aged students," parent Rhonda Oertwich said.

And some books with language that violates school rules seem hypocritical, says Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel of the Liberty Legal Institute, a Texas public policy group specializing in First Amendment rights.

"If they've got a rule that says they can't say certain words, then they need to try to be consistent and pick books that (don't) violate their principles," he said.

But others argue that kids need to be exposed to complex, sometimes ugly, moral issues to develop their character. And with students exposed to MTV, modern periodicals and everything in movies, the language in the books seems pretty tame, some say.

And then there's the question of when a school library will ever be "safe" enough to suit some.

"If they take it out of the school library then next it could be the public library, and will we ever see that book again?" parent Dana Potter said. "And what book is going to be next?

"I don't believe one parent and child can make a decision for a whole school district. I don't think the book needs to be pulled until more people have said this isn't appropriate."