A middle school in New York has been managing complaints from angry parents after their daughters complained that they were forced to ask each other for kisses and pretend to be lovers during an anti-bullying presentation on homosexuality and gender identity.
A recent report noted that the controversial session which parents were not informed about, took place at Linden Avenue Middle School in Red Hook, N.Y., just outside of Poughkeepsie. The presentation was conducted by a team of students from Bard College.
According to the report, the 13- and 14-year-old girls were introduced to terms like "pansexual" and "genderqueer" during the session where they were instructed to ask each other for kisses.
"She told me, 'Mom, we all get teased and picked on enough; now I'm going to be called a lesbian because I had to ask another girl if I could kiss her,'" concerned parent Mandy Coon, told reporters about her daughter's complaint. "They also picked two girls to stand in front of the class and pretend they were lesbians on a date."
Coon said she was particularly upset about the situation because the school did not give her the opportunity to opt her daughter out of the session.
"I am furious," she said. "I am her parent. Where does anyone get the right to tell her that it's okay for her to have sex?"
Another unidentified parent agreed: "The school is overstepping its bounds in not notifying parents first and giving us the choice. I thought it was very inappropriate. That kind of instruction is best left up to the parents."
The workshop which divided the students by sex, also made a presentation to boys at the middle school who were advised to carry a condom in their pocket at all times and given tips on how to identify a "slut."
"I was absolutely furious – really furious," an anonymous parent told reporter Todd Starnes. "These are just kids. I'm dumbfounded that they found this class was appropriate."
School Superintendent Paul Finch reportedly told The Poughkeepsie Journal that the presentations were "focused on improving culture, relationships, communication and self-perceptions."
"[We] may require more notification to parents" in the future, he said. He maintained, however, that the sessions are required under the state Dignity for All Students Act. It prohibits harassment and bullying in the classroom.
According to an open letter to parents from Finch posted to the school's website, he met with parents on April 16 to discuss the topics that they would address in the ongoing sessions of the communication workshop for eighth grade students.
"These topics included: cultural stereotypes related to gender and gender identity, positive strategies for conflict resolution, and issues related to personal consent in relationships. All of these topics support our efforts to create a school environment that is free from discrimination, harassment, and bullying," he noted.
"I appreciated the thoughtful dialogue about communication, supervision, and follow-up. I am confident that the middle school faculty will incorporate many of the suggestions into future programming."