Nova Scotia's Department of Education says it has dropped the American young adult novel, The Hate U Give, from its curriculum after a handful of complaints because it contains the N-word and profanities.
The award-winning book, which is about a Black high school student who struggles with identity and trauma after she witnesses a police officer shoot and kill her friend, has been available as a resource in Grade 8 classrooms since 2018.
The Hate U Give has been widely banned in schools in the United States due to its depictions of racism and anti-police views.
Paul Ash, the executive director of the African Canadian services branch with the Department of Education, said there were two complaints related to the book: one from a Black parent and another from a regional centre for education about the use of the N-word and other offensive language.
"The resource was identified by some of our regional centres as being problematic," Ash told CBC Radio's Information Morning Halifax.
"We reviewed the resource based on the concerns that they expressed and agreed, and we decided to remove it off of the authorized learning resources for that particular grade level."
The Hate U Give is about a Black high school student who struggles with identity and trauma after she witnesses a police officer shoot and kill her friend. (Harper Collins)
Ash called this situation an "exceptional circumstance."
Jayreece Whiley, who is in his first year at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, said he understands the use of the N-word can be sensitive, but it's not unexpected to hear in school.
He said he had it said to him on his first day of Grade 9.
"I think with knowledge comes power and we need to kind of change the system in which this can happen. And the first thing is to teach," Whiley told Information Morning.
"I think this book is a great tool to teach about police brutality and different things that Black people go through."
Whiley said he understands the subject can be uncomfortable, but that's a familiar feeling for Black people when they see police.
"We have to grow within our uncomfort and we still have to discuss it. Even if it's uncomfortable, we still have to discuss it," he said.
Elo Ag-bada, who is in Grade 11 at Charles P. Allen High School in Bedford, said she read the book for class and it led to some insightful discussions, despite some classmates never having heard of police brutality.
She said she wasn't surprised by the use of the N-word in the book, given its storyline, and the teacher handled discussions carefully.
"He made sure that we all individually understood the effect that the N-word had and why we weren't supposed to say it," Ag-bada told Information Morning.
Not a ban, department says
Jennifer Burke, the director of curriculum development with the Education Department, said The Hate U Give is not banned in schools. The book was simply removed from the department's recommended reading resource list.
She said the book would still be available in some school libraries where students could read it independently.
Burke said the department has been working closely with the African Canadian Services branch to select a number of resources that would provide education about African Nova Scotia cultures, histories and contributions.
"Those are components that are built in on a regular basis and it's very intentional," Burke told Information Morning.
"And we work with teachers and of course, we work with community to make sure that it's authentic and it's meaningful and it really addresses student learning needs."
Damini Awoyiga, who is also in Grade 11 at Charles P. Allen High School, said the book should be taught in classrooms because it provides much-needed context about how Black people are affected by racial discrimination and police violence in their day-to-day lives.
"It had a really big impact on me, and it made me really think that if a book that has that much impact on me is taken away from other students that could perhaps learn from that experience, then it would be a really negative thing that would happen," Awoyiga told Information Morning.
She said she hopes students will take it upon themselves to read the book on their own.
"I really, really hope that the people that read it, take time to understand from a different perspective, and use that to be able to go forth in their lives and be more aware of people and more intuitive to people's feelings and [their] reactions to things," she said.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
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