A teacher in Iowa has reportedly been fired for telling students that Mark Twain's classic American novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was "racist".

Naiya Galloway, a 31-year-old teaching associate at a private school in Dubuque, Iowa, is alleged to have told a classroom of students last October that the novel was racist and "should not be taught in schools", according to the Des Moines Register.

The next day, according to the report, she described the book as racist again while on a school bus, and is said by school officials to have "voiced objections to the book on numerous other occasions". Galloway was planning to quit her job, according to the local paper, but the alleged incidents led the school to sack her. A public hearing, at which she denied all the allegations about the book, saw a judge reject her request for unemployment benefits as well as take on claims about the novel's contents.

"When I hear that Huck Finn is racist, my immediate response – having studied literature and having studied that particular piece of literature and theory about it – is, 'Of course it's racist,'" said administrative law judge James Timberland, noting that he had a master's degree in English literature. "Part of the idea was to point out, through that book, that it was racist. It's about racism."

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has long divided readers, with some objecting to Twain's 200-plus uses of the offensive term "nigger", and to his racial stereotyping, and others seeing it as an ironic critique of a situation the anti-racist Twain loathed. First published in 1884, the novel is frequently on the American Library Association's list of the books most likely to inspire complaints, and last year a new edition went so far as to replace the word "nigger" with the word "slave".

© Guardian News and Media 2012