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Kansas: Middle School Sex Ed Poster Yanked in Wake of Parent Complaint

In eastern Kansas, the Kansas City suburb of Shawnee Mission was the site of a dispute over a poster listing sexual behaviors, on display in a middle school health class. Titled “How Do People Express Their Sexual Feelings?,” the poster listed terms such as ‘grinding,’ ‘oral sex,’ ‘kissing,’ and ‘sexual fantasy’ in addition to ‘talking,’ ‘hugging,’ and ‘saying I like you.’ After a 13-year-old student took a photo of the poster and showed it to her father, the school district found itself on the defensive.

The parent, Mark Ellis, expressed disapproval of the poster and disbelief that it was appropriate for Hocker Grove Middle School’s sexuality education program. “You know this had to pass through enough hands that someone should have said, ‘Wait a minute, these are 13-year-old kids, we do not need to be this in-depth with this sexual education type of program,’ ” Ellis told a local Fox News affiliate.[1]

A spokesperson for Shawnee Mission School District, Leigh Anne Neal, explained the role of the poster in the context of the district’s sexuality education curriculum; she described it as ‘abstinence-based’:

“The poster that you reference is actually part of our middle school health and science materials, and so it is a part of our district approved curriculum…However the item is meant to be part of a lesson, and so certainly as a standalone poster without the context of a teacher-led discussion, I could see that there might be some cause for concern…The curriculum it is a part of, it aligns with national standards around those topics, and it’s part of our curriculum in the school district.”[2]

Anti-abortion activists, who have long found Kansas a hospitable home for organizing, quickly seized upon the Shawnee Mission story to allege a link between Hocker Grove Middle School’s poster, Planned Parenthood (which had no role at all in the matter) and demand for abortion. In its coverage of the controversy, Life News argued that the district’s sexuality education program was proof that,

“The abortion industry is targeting schoolchildren more frequently with sex education than ever before — something not surprising given that studies show sex education campaigns lead to young women eventually purchasing abortions…That’s why Planned Parenthood, the biggest abortion business in the United States, has pushed so hard to get sex education classes in as many high schools as possible.”[3]

Not all parents agreed with Ellis that the poster had to go. Jennifer Wantland, whose 13-year-old daughter attended the class where the poster was displayed, found the material acceptable in the context as explained by the district: “In a classroom-like setting, if it’s educational, absolutely. She needs to know the correct terms…We need to stop living in a 1950s dreamland, honestly. We can't be leading our children into this world with blinders on.”[4]

Wantland’s daughter said her class’s general reaction to the poster was simply laughter. “We all started laughing obviously because of the terms,” she said. “We all know them. We're 13. We need to know anyways.”[5]

The district superintendent responded to Ellis’s complaint, and ensuing media storm, by issuing a statement that the poster would be removed from the classroom pending a detailed review of its role in the school’s sexuality education program.
 


[1] Tara Culp-Ressler, “Kansas Parents Are Outraged That A Middle School Sex Ed Poster References ‘Grinding’ And ‘Oral Sex’,” ThinkProgress.org, January 21, 2014, accessed January 22, 2014 at http://thinkprogress.org/health/2014/01/21/3185251/kansas-school-sex-poster/.

[2] Abby Eden, “Father upset with terms on school’s sexual education poster,” Fox4KC.com, January 14, 2014, accessed January 22, 2014 at http://fox4kc.com/2014/01/14/father-upset-with-terms-on-schools-sexual-education-poster/.

[3] Steven Ertelt, “Middle School Under Fire for Classroom Poster Listing Sex Acts,” LifeNews.com, January 16, 2014, accessed January 22, 2014 at http://www.lifenews.com/2014/01/16/middle-school-under-fire-for-classroom-poster-listing-sex-acts/.

[4] Garrett Haake, “Poster fuels debate: How should teens be taught about sex?” KSHB.com 41 Action News, January 17, 2014, accessed January 22, 2014 at http://www.kshb.com/dpp/news/local_news/poster-fuels-debate-how-should-teens-be-taught-about-sex.

[5] Ibid. 

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