From a blog called Teachers Count:
A middle-school health teacher (in a small, conservative [read that religious] community) was put on administrative leave for teaching details about sexuality. The original story inferred that she was holding forth on details on homosexuality, masturbation, and oral sex. The truth is that she had taught the regular curriculum and thereafter fielded student questions, which turned to these things.
On the one hand, the outraged and prolix parents had every right to wax eloquent, loud and long on the violation of their parental rights in teaching their offspring about sex. It is even possible that some of those innocent students were hearing details theretofore unimagined by them
On the other hand–probably not. I teach junior high students, the same age as the endangered middle school kids in question. My students know lots about sex, far more than I ever knew at that age. For sure, these students see very explicit material on prime-time TV, and they surely see plenty of sex in the movies they watch. From time to time we discuss cinema in art class, and I am often floored at the kinds of movies these young kids view, both for violence and for sexuality. Furthermore, they watch and rewatch very explicit music videos–and many of them use outright porn. And furthermore, walking around the art room as kids work and talk, I overhear that many of them are sexually active at thirteen, fourteen, fifteen.
No wonder they have questions about sexual practices. I believe the young health teacher caught herself in a trap. Experienced teachers know that there are certain things you never say, never discuss, because of community reaction. Young teachers, hoping to help kids understand a sexual world they really are much too young for, can get tripped up on answering questions.
No doubt our Utah middle school health teacher will not have her contract renewed next year. I think that is a shame. Obviously, the offended parents have no clue about what their kids’ lives are really like. They do not realize the misinformation–and the pressure–these young students experience. I would not be surprised to find that these offended parents have not given their kids much information on sex. Maybe the teacher crossed a line–and maybe a few students pushed her there. Still, I’d rather see her keep her job and learn the hard lesson of staying very conservative on certain subjects, like sex.
Accusations included the charge that the teacher distributed a list of 101 ways to have sex. In a heated meeting at the school, it turned out that the list was of 101 things to do instead of having sex. Ooops. And for this, parents want the woman fired?
Good analysis and background data in column by in the Salt Lake Tribune.
From that column, a list of what can and cannot be taught:
Careful what you say
What teachers can, and cannot, teach
as part of Utah’s human sexuality curriculum:
* Stress the importance of abstinence from sexual activity before marriage and fidelity after marriage.
* Provide factual, unbiased information about contraception and condoms with prior written parental consent.
* Discuss the intricacies of intercourse, sexual stimulation or erotic behavior.
* Advocate homosexuality.
* Advocate or encourage contraceptive methods or devices.
* Advocate sexual activity outside of marriage.
Source: Utah State Office of Education
Who knows what’s really going on? It will be interesting to see how this case is resolved. It’s been hanging fire for a month now.
- Original news story in Salt Lake Tribune, “Teacher’s sex talk riles parents”
- Salt Lake Tribune editorial, “Threatening teachers makes no sense.”
- Tribune columnist Robert Kirby unbarbs the issues a bit with humor: “Neighbors assured me that it was all quite true. The teacher had even given her students a manual titled 101 Sexual Positions. For proof, I should attend the parents’ meeting at the school the following morning.
“I went. I don’t have kids attending Fort Herriman Middle School, so my interest was entirely selfish. Mad as they were, I figured the parents might try to hang the teacher. I didn’t want to miss that. Also, I wanted a copy of that 101 Positions manual.
“I arrived early enough to see the signs that students had put up in defense of the teacher, demanding her return to the classroom. Seriously, duh. If my health teacher had been holding orgies, I would have repeated seventh grade until I was 35.”
- Tribune editorial that takes a stand for giving children accurate information (no, I’m not making that up)
- Story in the Deseret News, Salt Lake City’s second daily newspaper