The principal of an Arizona high school is on leave after parents complained about a book assigned to students in an Advanced Placement English class, local outlets reported.
Parents said that the book, “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed,” includes “profanity and graphic sexual references” that make the text inappropriate for high schoolers to read, AZ Family reported.
Some of those parents notified the Paradise Valley Unified School District earlier this month that they were upset the book was included as one of two options that Horizon students could read over the summer to prepare for a fall writing assignment, 12 News reported.
The school district did not confirm that the principal was on leave because of the book assignment, but did acknowledge that an assistant principal is acting as principal, according to KTVK.
The book, written by Welsh journalist Jon Ronson and published in 2015, discusses the “high-profile public shamings” of different people, according to the book’s Goodreads page. One of those “shamings” occurred over insensitive tweets and the spread of fabricated Bob Dylan quotes, an NPR review of the book said.
Tom Morton, the parent of a Horizon High School junior, said some of the explicit content in the book included descriptions of a porn shoot and bestiality. He believes that the book is “so egregiously inappropriate to assign to children” that it couldn’t have happened unintentionally, AZ Family reported.
Morton told 12 News that he reviewed the book and emailed his daughter’s teacher with some questions. After he “failed to get an adequate response,” he contacted the Paradise Valley school board, prompting them to review the reading list, the outlet reported.
Troy Bales, superintendent of the Paradise Valleyschool district, addressed the controversy in a Nov. 16 statement, saying that the school has a review process in place for books containing sensitive content and that the book in question was not on the school’s list of approved literature.
“The book assigned to students contains passages and references that we believe were inappropriate for a high school reading assignment,” Bales said. “PVSchools believes that it is important to balance preparing AP students for college-level academics and age-appropriate coursework. This summer reading assignment did not meet that standard, and on behalf of our district, I want to apologize.”
Despite the controversy, some students said they had no issues with the book. Nora Feingberg, a senior at Horizon who read the book, told AZ Family that she felt it was an important text.
“It’s just been very scary because I, for one, am not for book banning,” Feingberg said. “We shouldn’t have censorship in that sense.”
The school district did not immediately respond to a request for comment from McClatchy News.
Horizon High School is in Scottsdale, about 12 miles northeast of Phoenix.