RED HOOK — Some parents are questioning the appropriateness of an anti-bullying presentation on sexual orientations and gender identities given recently to eighth-graders.
Among their complaints: Bard College students weren’t a suitable choice to speak at Linden Avenue Middle School, and parents should have been notified in advance of Thursday’s health class lesson, according to Journal interviews and dozens of social media posts.
Paul Finch, superintendent of the Red Hook Central School District, told the Journal that the workshop focused on improving culture, relationships, communication and self-perceptions. These are issues schools are obligated to address under New York’s Dignity for All Students Act, he noted. Future workshops of a similar nature “may require more notification to parents,” he said.
Mandy Coon, a mother of an eighth-grade student, said she thought the district was infringing on her role as the parent.
“The whole thing just baffles me,” she said. “If they are required to have this course, why are they bringing in other unlicensed, untrained professionals — college kids — to teach this?”
Bard College spokesman Mark Primoff said the students were volunteers who were invited by the middle school to give a workshop on communication.
Effective in July, the Dignity for All Students Act represents the state’s effort to create a safe and supportive environment, free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment and bullying.
Finch said that Linden Avenue Principal Katie Zahedi and guidance counselors worked with a group of Bard students to develop the workshop, including role-playing on how to say no to unwanted social pressures.
In addition to learning vocabulary such as “pansexual” and “genderqueer,” the girls were told to request a kiss from a female peer, Coon said. Her 14-year-old daughter told her it was awkward and uncomfortable, she said.
On a Facebook forum for parents, Zahedi said the exercise was “not to pretend to be gay” but to practice saying “no” to unwarranted advances.
“In planning the discussion, we made it clear that absolutely no discussion of any sexual acts is appropriate to middle school, and they used the examples of a kiss,” she wrote. “It was a separate activity for boys and girls and ultimately about respect and safety.”
A public meeting was held Tuesday night at the school to address parents’ concerns.
Found here: http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/apps ... ck_check=1
Sounds like "forced" isn't the right word to use describing the situation.