A father in Tennessee is outraged after his children’s elementary school distributed a flyer promoting a three-day clinic to access free condoms and contraception.
Richard Penkoski, a Christian activist who runs the online ministry Warriors for Christ and regularly protests against Drag Queen Story Hour events at public libraries nationwide, spoke out Thursday during a school board meeting in Sullivan County about a flyer that his 7-year-old son brought home last week from his second grade class at the Mary Hughes School in Piney Flats.
The flyer in question promoted an event at the Appalachian Fairgrounds in Gray hosted by the Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps. The event was slated to be held from Nov. 1 to Nov. 3.
While one side of the flyer offered free dental, medical and vision services, the other side of the flyer advertised in big, bold letters “free birth control and pre-pregnancy services.”
Among other things, the flyer promoted free “implants, [intrauterine devices], pills, condoms and more.”
“What is more, exactly? And why was this given to my 7 year old?" Penkoski asked during his three minutes of floor time during the school board meeting in Blountville. “Since when is it the school’s job to give information to my child about birth control? When did the public schools decide they can teach my child issues regarding morality and sex?”
Penkoski said he is upset because the flyer nearly forced him to explain sex to his son before he thought his son was ready.
“I know liberals on this council, specifically, will say something like, ‘Well, schools teach reproduction.’ You are right,” Penkoski said. “They do teach biological facts in regard to reproduction. This flyer is not talking about reproduction. It teaches birth control. I also can’t help but notice that abstinence is not on this list.”
As a Christian, Penkoski asserted that he teaches his children to abstain from sexual activity until marriage and that fornication is a sin. He told The Christian Post in an interview that he felt the distribution of the flyer was a “direct attack” on the beliefs he teaches his children.
“The public schools think they have the right to usurp my authority as their father,” Penkoski charged during the meeting. “This school does not have that right.”
Sullivan County Director of Schools David Cox admitted Thursday that the flyers promoting birth control were passed out unintentionally. According to the Kingsport Times-News, Cox explained that all schools in the district distributed the flyers promoting the RAM Clinic.
The aim was to make sure that financially challenged families were aware of the three-day health clinic opportunity.
Cox told the Kingsport Times-News that the flyers were provided to the school district by East Tennessee State University on behalf of RAM. Cox contended that the flyer focusing on contraception was not meant to be distributed on the back of a RAM flyer promoting vision, medical and dental services.
"What happened on the back of the information, there was another part that was inadvertently sent and it did say free birth control," Cox said, according to WBIR.
Penkoski does not buy Cox’s reasoning.
“[The school] received two pages and what the principal did was he took the two pages and put them back-to-back to make one copy,” Penkoski told CP. “Part of it was to save paper but you can’t miss that. It is a whole page and right at the top there are big bold letters that say ‘birth control’ and ‘pre-pregnancy’ and all that stuff.”
Penkoski told CP that he feels the flyers were a “direct attack” on what he teaches his children. Although Cox said that the flyers were distributed at all schools, Penkoski said his 9-year-old daughter who attends the same school did not receive the flyer.
Penkoski believes some teacher discretion went into whether or not the flyers were handed out.
“The school can say ‘inadvertent’ all they want, but that is like accidentally giving a child with a peanut allergy a peanut,” Penkoski said.
Dale Walker, the president of the Tennessee Pastor’s Network, drove four hours to speak at the school board meeting on Thursday.
“Our question tonight is where is the accountability of this school?” Walker asked. “Where is the accountability of this teacher? Where is the accountability of this principal?”
“Where are the checks and balances? What are your procedures to block inappropriate subject matter to parents?” he continued. “Since when does our education system pick and choose what our students are exposed to without notification to their parents first?”
Walker said that teachers, principals and administrators need to be educated on what Christian families “desire to have for their children.”
“This garbage in this flyer is anything but Christian values and Christian families have the right to be upset about it,” Walker said.
Walker told CP that the flyer distributed at Mary Hughes School should serve as a “wake-up call to the Bible Belt.”
“We have a super Republican majority in Tennessee and many times people think that because we elect so-called conservative Christians that we can just live our lives and not pay any attention to what’s going on in the public space, in our schools and in our counties,” Walker added.
“Pastors better pay attention to what their children are learning in public schools. At best, we only have a couple of hours a week with children that attend our churches and then they go to secular, godless schools … and they are teaching 7-year-olds how to fornicate.”
Walker expressed concern with the fact that there were “no local pastors” present for the school board meeting last night.
“You would think that the room would have been filled with pastors,” Walker stressed. “This is why we have to get engaged. I understand pastors are busy. I am a pastor myself. I am trying to encourage them to make a difference in our culture because if we lose this young generation that is being indoctrinated with these doctrines of demons, we have lost our churches. The next future generation is going to be godless secularists.”