Students are strong enough for tough discussions; they easily can untangle the use and misuse of the word “nigger” in “Mockingbird.” But Mayella Ewell’s lies, which are the crux of the false charges brought against Tom Robinson, are far more complicated — too complicated for the eighth grade, perhaps even with an excellent teacher.

And the book cannot continue to be taught as if every person in the classroom is white, upper middle class and needs to be prodded into being Scout. It should be taught by asking questions about why there are no black characters with agency in the novel, by wrapping it in with the history of the Scottsboro boys — a group of black teenagers falsely accused of raping two white women — and through raising questions about how “Mockingbird” (and American history) complicates the modern “believe victims” movement.