A middle school in Maine has issued an apology to parents after representatives of a support organization for young homosexuals spoke about sexual topics that were deemed inappropriate during the school's fifth annual "Diversity Day" event.
Gorham Middle School's Civil Rights team invited the Proud Rainbow Youth of Southern Maine (PRYSM) to speak to students about gender diversity and the difficulties lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth face as a result of discrimination, NBC affiliate WLBZ reports. During a question and answer session at the end of the presentation, however, the discussion turned to sex.
Some of the teachers reported the incident to the school's principal, Robert Riley, saying they felt uncomfortable with what was said during the presentation but didn't respond immediately because the comments were made so quickly.
In addition to an apology letter that was later sent from the school to parents, Riley also wrote about the controversy in a blog post from Monday titled, "It's Been a Long Week." He says it is unfortunate that one negative occurrence during Diversity Day has detracted from the important issues that were discussed in the 16 other presentations, each of which was delivered three times that day.
"There is no excuse for what happened," Riley said in his blog. "It happened, and it happened quickly in response to an honest student question. The results of which we are all very aware. We will be more vigilant in the future to make sure this does not happen again, but the idea of Diversity Day program is still very important to us as a Middle School."
Most reports of the controversial statements say the presenters spoke about homosexual foreplay in response to a question by a student. Some, however, say the discussion was centered on the topic of safe sex practices for homosexuals and it was the presenters who initiated the talk.
Mary Jane Krebs, president and CEO of the Community Counseling Center, the organization behind PRYSM, said in a statement that her organization is looking into the incident.
"Community Counseling Center and the Proud Rainbow Youth of Southern Maine (PRYSM) program are looking into all concerns raised and will address them," said Krebs. "CCC has a long history of helping thousands of individuals and families each year, and we work to ensure that all educational outreach efforts in our community are age-appropriate and fit within our mission to treat everyone with respect and dignity."
Liana Richardson identifies herself on her Facebook page as one of the individuals who helped with the presentation.
"At the end there was room for questions and comments, and when no one raised their hands the presenter asked if the students were taught safe sex, to which they all answered yes," said Richardson in a Facebook post. "She went on to ask if Gorham taught Safe Queer sex, to which they answered no. She discussed two or three different barriers people use in the Queer community to protect themselves from STD's. There was absolutely NO discussion of foreplay methodology."
Although Richardson says those who complained about the presentation should be "ashamed" of themselves, Carroll Conley, Jr., executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine (CCLM), says discussing such topics with young teenagers is "egregious."
Conley, who revealed Richardson's comments to The Christian Post, believes there is another issue at hand: the right for parents to decide whether or not their children will be taught about homosexuality in school.
"Our concern is that this typifies the lack of regard for parental rights," said Conley.
In addition to his role with CCLM, Conley also serves as co-chair of Protect Marriage Maine – an organization dedicated to upholding the traditional definition of marriage between one man and one woman. On Tuesday, Maine's voters will be faced with Question One, which, if passed, would allow same-sex couples to marry in the state.
Protect Marriage Maine is concerned that if same-sex marriage is allowed, young students could be taught that "boys can marry boys" even without parental consent, according to one of the organization's television advertisements. The ad shows parents from Massachusetts – where same-sex marriage is legal – discussing a court ruling that says schools do not have to notify parents before teaching students about gay marriage.
"If there was any doubt that gay marriage would be taught to young children in Maine schools just as it is in Massachusetts and Canada, that doubt should be removed now," said Protect Marriage Maine Chairman Bob Emrich in a blog post about the Gorham Middle School incident. "If they are willing to teach our kids how homosexuals engage in foreplay, do you really think they won't force gay marriage instruction of young children when it is the law of the land?"