Minnesota school district replaced ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ with left-wing ‘Dear Martin’

Some parents were upset about the inclusion of "Dear Martin" because of its racial grievance messaging and the vulgar content and dialogue scattered throughout.

Background: Sartell-St. Stephen School District/Facebook. Left: To Kill a Mockingbird/Amazon.

A school district in central Minnesota replaced a classic American novel read in high school English classes across the U.S. with a contemporary novel rooted in leftist racial grievance politics.

Sartell-St. Stephen Public Schools has removed Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” from its 9th grade English curriculum and added Nic Stone’s “Dear Martin,” according to KNSI.

“After a traffic stop turns violent at the hands of the police, a young Black teen grapples with racism — and what it means for his future,” reads the Amazon book description. “Critically acclaimed author Nic Stone boldly tackles America’s troubled history with race relations in her gripping debut novel.”

Another description of the book reads as follows: “[A] fictional story about an Ivy League-bound African American student named Justyce who becomes a victim of racial profiling. He struggles to reconcile the fact that he’s a good kid with suddenly being in police handcuffs. In the months that follow, Justyce confronts injustices and micro-aggressions he experiences at his mostly white prep school and the fallout from his detainment.”

Some parents were upset about the inclusion of “Dear Martin” because of its racial grievance messaging and the vulgar content and dialogue scattered throughout.

Speaking to KNSI, concerned parent Steve Kron said the book’s culminating event is “when one of the main characters, who is an African American male, is murdered by an off-duty police officer,” adding that he recalls “six different instances of police violence against these kids in that book.”

“All of them [were] portrayed, I feel, very one-sided,” he said. “The book is also, I think, inappropriate in terms of content from a sexual perspective. There is a lot of normalizing of sexual behavior of most high school kids, and I think there are 144 instances of profanity within the book, nine times using the N-word or a variation of it.”

But district superintendent Jeff Ridlehoover justified the inclusion of “Dear Martin” as part of exposing teenagers to circumstances “that might be different than their normal lived experience.”

“It is not our job to tell kids how or what to think but it’s our job to allow them to think and to discuss and to draw their own conclusions and opinions. And that’s the work that’s really important to us,” he told KNSI.

Concerned parents worked with school leaders to develop an opt-out option, which will allow their students to complete a more traditional curriculum.

Alpha News has reported on the blatantly left-wing agenda of Sartell-St. Stephen Public Schools in the past. The district partnered with Equity Alliance Minnesota in 2020, a group that aims to “make the educational ecosystem across Minnesota equitable for every single student.”

Furthermore, emails from 2020 and 2021 show the vice chair of the Sartell school board, Jason Nies, lobbying Mayor Ryan Fitzthum to remove “thin blue line” stickers from the Sartell Police Department’s patrol cars.

“As a long time resident of Sartell I am disappointed that the removal of the ‘Blue Lives Matter’ flag has not occurred,” Nies wrote last April. “It is easy to see that the views of our white citizens carries much more weight than out [sic] black and brown community.”

“Its [sic] time to get rid of this symbol on tax payer funded police vehicles!”

Kids Over Politics, a local group that formed in response to these developments, told Alpha News that “To Kill a Mockingbird” was removed from the curriculum at some point after George Floyd’s death. The group said it still has questions about what role the school board played in getting the book removed.


Evan Stambaugh

Evan Stambaugh is a freelance writer who had previously been a sports blogger. He has a BA in theology and an MA in philosophy.