HUDSON, Ohio – An Ohio mayor calls on five members of his city’s school board to resign or face possible criminal charges over high school course material he said a judge qualified of “child pornography”.
Hudson, Ohio Mayor Craig Shubert made the statement at an education board meeting after several parents complained about the content of some writing prompts contained in a book titled ” 642 Things to Write About “provided to high school students enrolled in a credited college course called Writing in the Liberal Arts II.
Parents said there was a prompt that asked students to “write a sex scene that you wouldn’t want to show your mom”, and another that said “rewrite the sex scene from above to one that you would let your mother read “.
Another prompt asked the students to drink a beer and describe its taste. Parents said they felt these and other writing prompts were not appropriate for high school students.
One speaker said he was “appalled” by the content and called for cameras to be installed in the classroom so that parents can monitor what is being taught to their children. Another speaker said the material was ‘disgusting’ and it was ‘care’.
In a prepared statement, Superintendent Phil Herman said “inappropriate and offensive writing prompts” were part of an additional resource used in College Credit Plus high school writing sections.
“The district immediately determined that this writing resource should not be in the hands of our students, and on Monday picked up the books from students enrolled in the course,” Herman said. “It is important to note that at no time were these inappropriate writing prompts assigned as part of the course.”
High school principal Brian Wilch said the course was offered in association with Hiram College, but was taught in high school. He also stated that the “642 Things” book has been used in the past.
Wilch told the board on Monday that he and his administrative team apologized to the parents of the students. The school is looking for replacement materials suitable for high school students, he said.
“We did not do our due diligence when reviewing this resource and as a result we overlooked several write prompts among the 642 that are not suitable for our high school audience,” Wilch said. “We feel bad. At no point were any of these inappropriate prompts selected or discussed, but they were still there and they were visible, and you can’t ignore them.”
Shubert on Monday night issued an ultimatum to the board.
“It has come to my attention that your educators are basically distributing what is child pornography in the classroom,” Shubert told the board. “I spoke to a judge tonight. She has already confirmed it. So I’m going to give you a simple choice: either you choose to resign from this school board or you will be charged.
His statement was greeted with cheers and applause from many spectators.
The mayor said he would like to see the five members step down by the end of the month.
It is not clear whether the board can be held criminally responsible for materials used in a classroom.
“We never heard of criminal charges [filed against a school board] for the curriculum, ”said Ralph Lusher, staff attorney for the Ohio School Boards Association.
While noting that he is not familiar with the Hudson Education Council’s curriculum approval process, Lusher said school boards typically have a process in which the curriculum is reviewed by committees. before being submitted to the board for approval. He said he believed it was “unlikely that anything would reach them such moral turpitude that it would lead to criminal prosecution.”
Lusher said Ohio State House Bill 110 – which comes into effect Sept. 30 – will require school districts to have parents of high school students sign authorization forms for College Credit Plus courses. The Ohio Departments of Education and Higher Education are working together to create an authorization slip that will notify parents of adult subjects that could be part of the College Credit Plus course. There is currently no such requirement.
Herman said an independent investigation is underway “to determine how these additional documents have been reviewed and approved, and whether further action needs to be taken.”
“It is clear that as a district we have not properly reviewed this resource, and for that we sincerely apologize,” he said. “We take great pride in the educational experience of our students and take very seriously anything that negatively impacts our mission to provide an educational program that ensures the development of each child in a safe and nurturing environment.
“Again, we are reviewing our approval processes to make sure nothing similar happens in the future.”
Follow Phil Keren on Twitter at @keren_phil.