Red Hook, New York — A recent anti-bullying presentation at a middle school in New York that focused on homosexuality and gender identity has angered parents after their daughters have come home to tell them they were forced to ask another girl for a kiss.
According to reports, the session occurred last week at Linden Avenue Middle School in Red Hook, New York, near Poughkeepsie. A group of students from Bard College led two workshops for the youth, separated by gender.
During the workshop for girls, the 13 and 14-year-olds were told to ask one another for a kiss. They were also taught words such as “pansexual” and “genderqueer.”
Parent Mandy Coon told reporters that her daughter was very uncomfortable with the exercise.
“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,’” she lamented. “They also picked two girls to stand in front of the class and pretend they were lesbians on a date.”
Coon stated that she was especially irate over the matter because parents were given no warning about the presentations, nor an opportunity to opt out. She is also dismayed that college students were granted the right to come into the classroom and encourage her daughter to be sexually active.
“I am furious,” she declared. “I am her parent. Where does anyone get the right to tell her that it’s okay for her to have sex?”
“The school is overstepping its bounds in not notifying parents first and giving us the choice,” another parent remarked. “I thought it was very inappropriate. That kind of instruction is best left up to the parents.”
According to reports, during the workshop for the adolescent boys, the students were counseled to keep a condom in their pocket at all times, and were taught how to identify a woman who is 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.”
However, both the school principal and the district superintendent are defending the workshops, and are advising that they will schedule more. Superintendent Paul Finch told The Poughkeepsie Journal that the presentation was “focused on improving culture, relationships, communication and self-perceptions.”
“[We] may require more notification to parents” in the future, he said, contending that the sessions are required under the state Dignity for All Students Act, which prohibits harassment and bullying in the classroom.
He advised that Principal Katie Zahedi and guidance counselors at the school worked with Bard students to plan the workshops. Likewise, Mark Primoff, a spokesman for Bard College, said that students had volunteered to give the presentation after the school invited the institution of higher learning to participate in the workshops.
Zahedi asserts that the sessions were rather about saying no to unwanted advances as opposed to encouraging homosexual acts.
“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 in an online forum for parents. “It was a separate activity for boys and girls and ultimately about respect and safety.”
However, parents remain livid over the matter. A public meeting was held this week for residents to express their concerns.
It is not known whether girls actually had to kiss one another, or if the exercise stopped at the request.