It’s an old, old tactic: when someone has done something reprehensible, it’s easy to slime everything else he has done as being beyond the pale. The Louisville Courier-Journal tries to persuade readers that decision to remove books normalizing homosexuality was a bad one because a bad person was involved in the decision.
Billy Kobin,¹ Louisville Courier Journal | Published 1:17 p.m. ET Aug. 29, 2019 | Updated 4:26 p.m. ET Aug. 29, 2019
The former Kentucky school principal who was arrested Tuesday and accused of possessing child pornography made headlines 10 years ago for banning classroom books that were accused of including “soft pornography” and “homosexual content.”
Phillip Todd Wilson, 54, of Winchester, has been charged with 30 counts of child pornography-related offenses, according to Kentucky State Police.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: if Mr Wilson is guilty of the crimes of which he has been accused, he should be locked up for the rest of his life. Mr Wilson was the principal of the Clark County Area Technology Center, the vocational school part of George Rogers Clark High School in Winchester. Since the accusations, he has either been fired or resigned in advance of such.
But here’s where the Courier-Journal veered off into the weeds:
In 2009, Wilson was the principal of Montgomery County High School in Mount Sterling, Kentucky, when some parents contacted school officials to complain about several contemporary young-adult novels being taught alongside classical works like “Beowulf” in English classes.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reported at the time that some parents complained the novels “contain foul language and cover topics — including sex, child abuse, suicide and drug abuse — unsuited for discussion in coed high school classes.”
The article has more details of what was removed, and I take no position here on what was removed.²
It was a parent who found some assigned material objectionable, and raised the issue; Mr Wilson did not. The parent emailed Risha Allen Mullins, the teacher in question, Mr Wilson, Montgomery County School Superintendent Daniel Freeman and school board members. From the Lexington Herald-Leader:
A dispute over books at Montgomery County High School has embroiled parents, teachers, students and others over the past several months, extending to authors and censorship groups at the national level.
The continuing ruckus revolves around contemporary, young-adult novels that have been used in conjunction with classical works like The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer and the epic poem Beowulf in some sophomore and senior accelerated English classes.
Some parents have complained that the novels contain foul language and cover topics — including sex, child abuse, suicide and drug abuse — unsuited for discussion in coed high school classes. They also contend that the books don’t provide the intellectual challenge and rigor that students need in college preparatory classes.
Montgomery County School Superintendent Daniel Freeman has responded by withdrawing about half a dozen of the challenged titles from classroom use. However, students can still find them in the high school library, and they remain available through a student book club
So, it wasn’t just Mr Wilson who ordered that the books in question be removed from a teacher’s curriculum, but the superintendent, administrators and the school board. But the author, Billy Kobin, wrote, and the Courier-Journal published, an article which implies — though it does not directly so state — that Mr Wilson’s involvement in the decision somehow invalidates the decision because Mr Wilson has subsequently been accused of possession of child pornography. Note that while the Superintendent of Montgomery County Schools was named in the Herald-Leader article Mr Kobin referenced, and the superintendent is the principal’s superior, the Courier-Journal article does not name him.
Let me be plain here: the reader is meant to infer that the decision to pull the books from the teacher’s curriculum was Mr Wilson’s, and that Mr Wilson, having been charged with possession of child pornography, took an illegitimate decision. The Courier-Journal’s article is wholly misleading and biased.
There’s more in the article, concerning complaints by one of the authors whose books were removed, and the teacher, about censorship.
Following news of Wilson’s arrest, several authors of the banned books spoke out on social media. Jo Knowles complained, via Twitter, that “The principal of the Kentucky hs who fought to ban my book, LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL (for “homosexual and other inappropriate content”) . . . was just arrested on child pornography charges.” Laurie Halse Anderson complained, also via Twitter, that “Poisonous leaders use their power to protect their evil.”
In a Facebook post, Knowles wrote she was “a very new author” in 2009 when Montgomery County school officials banned her book “for homosexual and other content,” adding the “press coverage was overwhelming.”
“I was horrified by the accusations (Wilson) and the superintendent made. And heartbroken for the brave teacher Risha Allen Mullins who stood up for our books and faced so much unfair criticism,” Knowles wrote.
Knowles added she was “having a lot of feelings now” and told some friends when she got the news of Wilson’s arrest, “You can’t make this s— up.”
Mrs Anderson did admit that the books banned were “LGBT books.” These authors wish to normalize homosexuality, and the superintendent, the school board and, yes, the principal, decided that was inappropriate for high school students. That the principal has been accused of having and distributing child pornography ten years later does not mean that that decision was the wrong one. And the Courier-Journal is trying to help them.
¹ – Reach Billy Kobin at or 502-582-7030.
² – Full disclosure: Back in medieval times, 1971, I was graduated from the now-closed Mt Sterling High School, which is in Montgomery County, but was an independent school, not part of the Montgomery County school system. Montgomery County is mostly rural, with a 2010 population of 26,499. Mt Sterling, the county seat and largest ‘city,’ had only about 6,900 residents at the time.
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