On June 18, the School Board of Campbell High School in Litchfield, New Hampshire decided to remove four short stories from the “Love/Gender/Family” unit of an English class. Early last week, Kathleen Reilly resigned from her position as English department head, citing a desire to teach elementary school in a different district.
Reilly, who had taught at the high school since it opened in 2000, did not teach the junior/senior “Short Stories” class herself, but did choose its curriculum. She did not explicitly state that the controversy forced her to resign. However, the principal’s suggestion that she had made a “mistake in judgment” when choosing the stories, coupled with the School Board’s decision to impose more oversight on curriculum development in the future, likely influenced Reilly’s decision to leave.
A number of parents objected earlier this month to four stories by Ernest Hemingway, David Sedaris, Stephen King, and Laura Lippman because of their themes of abortion, homosexuality, cannibalism, and drug use, respectively. In an email to the Union Leader Reporter, Reilly defended the use of the stories in class:
The first story, ‘The Crack Cocaine Diet,’ was not intended to glorify bad behavior; rather, it was chosen for its tone and point of view and to show the often devastating consequences of drug use. In addition to its tone and style, the message of the story ‘I Like Guys’ was respect and acceptance, not an advocacy for homosexuality.
Certain parents, particularly Sue Ann Johnson, insisted that the inclusion of the stories was part of a liberal “agenda” and that they did not want their children learning about homosexuality in school.
Reilly’s resignation is a sad development in this ongoing controversy. No teacher should have to feel compelled to leave a school because of angry objections to the books she teaches. Parents have a right to prevent their own children from reading certain stories, but other students may read what they want–and teachers have the right to assign any story that, in their professional opinion, has educational merit.
Read an op-ed piece by Andy Towne, a 2007 graduate of Campbell high school, in defense of Kathleen Reilly and the banned stories.