Scottsdale principal terminated after outcry over summer book assignment

Dec 5, 2021, 4:00 PM | Updated: Dec 6, 2021, 11:41 am
(Google Maps screenshot)...
(Google Maps screenshot)
(Google Maps screenshot)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — A Scottsdale high school’s principal will not be back next year after a firestorm over a summer book assignment.

The Paradise Valley Unified School District governing board voted Thursday not to renew the contract of Linda Ihnat, principal at Horizon High School. Ihnat failed to follow procedure when it came to informing parents about sensitive content in a book, according to board members.

The book, “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” by Jon Ronson, was an option on an Advanced Placement English reading list last summer. The book examines victims of social media mobs and so-called “cancel culture.”

Controversy erupted last month after some parents became aware of sexual content in the book — including references to orgies and bestiality. Ihnat was put on leave.

Superintendent Troy Bales issued an apology letter Nov. 16 to parents. He wrote that the book was not on a district approved literature list nor was it age-appropriate. He also promised better reinforcement of procedures when it comes to relaying assigned books to parents.

Ihnat did not immediately return a message left Friday at a cellphone number listed for her.

Several parents and students — some with signs — showed up to Thursday’s meeting to give public comment. Some were protesting and calling for the teacher who assigned the book to be fired. But others argued the sexual content was only a small portion of the book and teachers should be given more discretion.

It’s not clear if the AP English teacher will face any disciplinary action. Becky Kelbaugh, a district spokeswoman, said Friday the district could not comment on personnel-related matters.

The assistant principal, Shelley Strohfus, will continue to serve as acting principal.

The news adds to an already chaotic week for Horizon High School. A teacher resigned after being accused of unprofessional conduct. Phoenix police confirmed there is an investigation but did not share any other details, KPNX-TV reported. District officials also declined to comment.

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Scottsdale principal terminated after outcry over summer book assignment