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Principal who banned LGBTQ books now faces child porn charges

Principal who banned LGBTQ books now faces child porn charges

Kentucky - A Kentucky school principal, who became infamous for his efforts to ban books with "homosexual content" from classrooms, has been indicted on child pornography charges.

Phillip Todd Wilson, who used to run the Clark County Area Technology Centre east of Lexington, is now facing 17 counts of child pornography possession and distribution after state police arrested him in August. He no longer works at the school, according to local media reports.

Wilson attracted police attention after someone told his facility's school resource officer that the principal had sent them 15 pictures via social media and text messages, the Winchester Sun newspaper reported. In an interview with police, Wilson admitted to sending images to two females and authorities confiscated his cellphone and laptop.

Ten years ago, as principal of nearby Montgomery County High School, Wilson was at the centre of a statewide and national debate over the censorship of books that featured LGBTQ characters and references to sex, suicide and drug use. Wilson and other school officials successfully barred at least four young adult novels, arguing their explicit content was inappropriate for high school students.

After Wilson's arrest, several authors of the banned books pointed at the dark irony.

"Books that help kids examine the violence, abuse and shame they've endured are very threatening to the people who commit those acts of violence, abuse, and shaming," tweeted Laurie Halse Anderson, whose 'Twisted' was among the targeted books.

"Deadline' by Chris Crutcher, "Lessons from a Dead Girl" by Jo Knowles and "Unwind" by Neal Shusterman were also banned.

In a Facebook post, Knowles wrote that she was a new author at the time.

"The press coverage was overwhelming," she said. "I was horrified by the accusations he and the superintendent made."

Books about LGBTQ issues are being challenged in schools and libraries across the country. In 2018, six of the 11 most frequently challenged and banned books included LGBTQ content, according to a report from the American Library Association. That number is up from the past two years, when four and five of the most-targeted books referenced LGBTQ issues.

The organisation said it has "noticed a repressive push back by those who believe that a more diverse and just society poses a threat to their beliefs and their way of life."

The report highlighted the particularly alarming case of a conservative religious activist in Iowa, who was convicted of criminal mischief for burning four LGBTQ children's books during a city's Pride parade. Elsewhere, the report added, groups have filed lawsuits to stop Drag Queen Story Hours, which aim to teach children gender diversity and acceptance.

In Loudoun County, Virginia, this year, newly-installed "diverse classroom libraries" were meant to expose students to stories about young people of different cultures, races and religions. Books involving LGBTQ issues made up less than 5 percent of the new collection - yet those works have prompted a heated debate in the school district, with some parents calling them "sexual propaganda."

School officials are now reviewing 10 books in the collection, at least four of which feature LGBTQ characters, and they'll decide whether to keep or remove them.

Other parents, activists and the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union have implored the school district to reject calls to remove books.

"Purging certain books from school libraries because some parents do not like them is government action favoring the opinion of some parents over others," read a letter the ACLU sent school officials last month. "Passing judgments, applying labels, and red-flagging educational materials that might prompt uncomfortable but insightful discussions are activities that do not belong in our public schools."

The Washington Post