By Emer Valdez, SIECUS Program Research Intern
Missouri’s Camdenton R-III School District, with over 4,000 students enrolled in a community midway between Kansas City and St. Louis, is back in the news after hiring motivational speaker Tina Marie Griffin to address three student assemblies. Griffin, who claims “to reveal the deadly consequences of the glamorization of premarital sex, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, cutting and other self-destructive behaviors portrayed in all entertainment mediums,”, addressed middle and high school students in late January 2014, triggering a month of community-level recriminations over the fallout.
The district previously made headlines when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took it to court in 2011-12 over allegations that Camdenton schools blocked student access to internet sites with information about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender topics. The district settled by agreeing to unblock the sites and pay the ACLU $125,000 to cover a portion of their attorney fees.
Griffin, a former Hollywood performer known for appearances in programs such as Melrose Place, has been accused in the past of fomenting fear and shame through speaking engagements that frame adolescence as a minefield of perpetual danger. The father of a student who attended a 2005 assembly in Montana alleged that Griffin said “that condoms cause cancer, that birth control pills are only 20 percent effective, that sexually transmitted diseases are spread by skin to skin contact, that third trimester fetuses can be aborted, that video games lead to homicide, that human papilloma virus can be transferred through condoms and that teens can achieve ‘second virginity’ through abstinence.”
The school district invited Griffin to address their students after district personnel saw her speak at a Missouri School Counselors conference.
Several Camdenton parents likewise expressed concern that Griffin’s talk would inspire fear more than responsibility among teens. Kim Garrison, a mother of three students enrolled in Camdenton schools, said “my kids came home in a frenzy…They were very upset…[Griffin] was also selling purity rings after the assembly.” In contrast, junior Jordan Major who attended the event told the local Lake Sun news “I loved it.” For this student, Griffin’s message was simply “about taking negativity in your life and replacing it with the positive.”
An audio recording of the assembly circulated soon after the controversy surfaced. The recording did not contain evidence of the most incendiary statement attributed to Griffin – according to the local news source LakeExpo.com:
“As for the allegation that Griffin told students they would regain their virginity after wearing a purity ring for two weeks, the recording of the high school presentation contained no such language.”
Griffin insisted that parent complaints about her remarks were founded on hearsay, and complained that school district administrators had failed to defend her in the weeks after the controversy emerged: “I know what I can and can’t say in schools, my agenda was to save lives and that is what I did.”
 Tina Marie Griffin official website, accessed March 12, 2014 at http://tinamarielive.com/wordpress/.
 Deanna Wheeler, “ACLU suits ends, Camdenton School Districts pays $125,000,” LakeNewsOnline.com, March 29, 2012, accessed March 5, 2014 at http://www.lakenewsonline.com/article/20120329/NEWS/303299819#.
 Spree Hilliard, “Guest speaker sparks controversy, dialog,” LakeNewsOnline.com, February 3, 2014, accessed March 5, 2014 at http://www.lakenewsonline.com/article/20140203/News/140209695#.
 “Audio vindicates Camdenton school speaker after controversy,” LakeExpo.com, January 31. 2014, accessed March 12, 2014 at http://lakeexpo.com/news/lake_news/article_f24957d0-a27d-11e3-a61d-001a4bcf887a.html?mode=jqm_rel.