Mayor Craig Shubert of Hudson, Ohio, is calling on all five members of the city's school board to resign or face possible criminal charges after materials he called "child pornography" were distributed to a high school class.
"It has come to my attention that your educators are distributing essentially what is child pornography in the classroom," Shubert told the board.
"I've spoken to a judge this evening. She's already confirmed that. So I'm going to give you a simple choice: You either choose to resign from this board of education or you will be charged."
Shubert's statement was met with a round of applause from the crowd attending that meeting.
Shubert wants to see the members of the school board resign by the end of the month, According to the Akron Beacon Journal.
The mayor's statement came after a number of parents complained about some of the writing prompts included in a book called 642 Things to Write About.
That book was provided to high school students taking Writing in the Liberal Arts II, which is a college credit class.
Parents said there was a prompt that asked students to "write a sex scene you wouldn't show your mom," and to "rewrite the sex scene from above into one that you'd let your mom read."
Another writing prompt told underage students to drink a beer and describe the taste.
Parents felt that these prompts, as well as others, were not suitable for high school students.
At the meeting, one speaker said he was "appalled" by the content, and requested that cameras be placed in classrooms to monitor what their children were being taught. One of those who spoke at the meeting said that the material was "disgusting" and was akin to "grooming."
Superintendent Phil Hermon issued a statement on the issue, saying that the "inappropriate and offensive writing prompts" were part of a supplemental resource used in the class.
"The district immediately determined this writing resource should not be in the hands of our students, and on Monday, collected the books from the students enrolled in the course," Herman said. "It is important to note that at no time were any of these inappropriate writing prompts assigned as part of the class."
High school principal Brian Wilch stated that the class in which the material was used was offered in conjunction with Hiram college for college credit, and added that 642 Things to Write About has been used in the past.
Wilch addressed the school board during the meeting, stating that he and his team have apologized to parents, and are searching for a suitable replacement material.
"We did not exercise due diligence when we reviewed this resource and as a result, we overlooked several writing prompts among the 642 that are not appropriate for our high school audience," Wilch said. "…We feel terrible. At no time were any of these inappropriate prompts selected or discussed, but still they were there and they were viewable, and you can't unsee them."
In response to Shubert's threats of legal action, a staff attorney with the Ohio School Boards Association said that criminal charges are unheard of for a case like this.
"We've never heard of criminal charges [filed against a school board] for curriculum," said attorney Ralph Lusher.
Lusher noted that materials are typically reviewed by committees before it comes to the board for approval, and that it is "unlikely that something would get to them that is of such moral turpitude that it would bring criminal charges."
Herman stated that an independent investigation is underway "to determine how these supplemental materials were reviewed and approved, and if any additional action should be taken."
"It is clear that as a district we did not properly review this resource, and for that, we sincerely apologize," he said. "We take great pride in the instructional experience of our students and take very seriously anything that negatively impacts our mission to provide an educational program that provides for the development of each child in a safe, nurturing environment."
"Again," he added, "we are reviewing our approval processes to make sure that nothing similar happens in the future."
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