High School Students In Paradise Valley Were Assigned Sexually Explicit Book About Porn Industry And Bestiality

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As calls get louder for a criminal investigation into how a sexually explicit book came to be included on an Advanced Placement (AP) English reading list at Horizon High School in Scottsdale, the students and staff learned Monday they have a new principal, for the time being.

Superintendent Troy Bales of the Paradise Valley Unified School District announced to parents, students, and staff of Horizon HS that Shelley Strohfus is now acting principal. The change was necessary, Bales wrote, because Principal Linda Ihnat is on leave.

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Ihnat’s conduct, and that of English teachers Brian Morgan and Jay Parizek, is the subject of recent parental outrage over the assignment of Jon Ronson’s “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” to students as young as 15. At least one parent has said he filed a police report related to book being provided to his daughter, while other parents have called for the Arizona Department of Education to look into the school’s policies.

According to Thomas Morton, he learned of Ronson’s book from his 15-year-old daughter and was shocked to find it available to Horizon’s 2,100 students via the library. The book is described by the publisher as exploring the effects of public humiliation in the internet age, but a simple Google search reveals its adult sexual themes, including the porn industry and bestiality.

Morton’s daughter was eventually assigned an alternate book by Ihnat, who has been Horizon’s principal since the 2013-2014 school year. Since then, several parents have spoken out about the age-inappropriate reading assignment and their frustration with how school personnel reacted to the outcry.

As reported by AZ Free News, public records show Bales described the assignment of Ronson’s book as “a mistake.”  He also apologized that a 2019 promise to remove the book from Horizon HS’s reading list and its library was not complied with.

Bales did not get into detail about Ihnat’s leave in his Nov. 22 announcement. He did, however, say he is confident in Strohfus’ ability “to lead Horizon High School” and undertake all day-to-day responsibilities at the school.

But some parents question Bales’ decision to promote Strohfus, who has been an assistant principal at Horizon for seven years. Which means she was part of the school administration when the 2019 complaint was registered about the book.

For now, parents are waiting to hear whether state education officials will take any action at Horizon. They are also hopeful that a criminal investigation will lead to one or more prosecutions.

One parent told Arizona Daily Independent that adults can be prosecuted for admitting a 15 or 16 year old to a theater in which the things described in Ronson’s book were being depicted. The fact the graphic sexual content is in writing should not make a difference.

Arizona Revised Statute, under the Chapter titled Obscenity, makes it a Class 4 felony to “recklessly furnish, present, provide, make available, give, lend, show, advertise or distribute” to a minor “any item” that is harmful to the minor.

The legal definition of harmful to minors is quite details, but it includes “any description or representation, in whatever form, of nudity, sexual activity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sadomasochistic abuse” if the “average adult applying contemporary state standards with respect to what is suitable for minors” under various criteria.

It is not necessary for the item to arouse or excite any particular form of prurient interest either in the hypothetical average person, in a member of its intended probable recipient group, or in the trier of fact. A showing that a person had “knowledge of the character” of the item is also criteria of ARS 13-3506.

READ ABOUT MORTON’S EXPERIENCE HERE