By Daniel Rubin-Marx, SIECUS Program Research Intern
Does sex education = rape? Some Washington State parents expressed this belief following a sexuality education presentation at an elementary school in Onalaska. "I'm one pissed off cowboy, I didn't appreciate them teaching my daughter – who is innocent of that – at all," stated parent James Gilliand. "It's just the same as raping somebody, but you're raping their innocence instead of their physical being," he added.1
What warranted the outrage? The principal, who was leading an HIV/AIDS presentation to fifth-grade 11 year olds, was asked by a student about other forms of sexual activity. She proceeded to describe what oral sex is, using anatomically-correct terms.
Parent Curtis Pannkuk asked his daughter to repeat at home what the principal had described: "You take a man's penis and you put it in your mouth – that's what the girls do to the boys…the boys spread the girls' legs apart and put their mouths down on the vaginas."2 Pannkuk concurred with Gilliand on the analogy of rape: "One of the other parents said it well – they raped the minds of the ten year old, eleven year old kids."3
Onalaska School District Superintendent Scott Fenter defended the principal's actions. "[She] stuck to the curriculum," he explained.4 "It's pretty difficult to talk about STDs or sexually transmitted diseases without explaining what that is, or how it's transmitted."5 He further defended the principal's response by noting that children's sexual awareness develops before sixth grade, and "we know that's the age where many children start to become sexually active, unfortunately."6
According to Fenter, the school sent notices to the parents regarding sexuality education lessons, giving them the option to review the materials and respond if they had concerns. Only three parents requested to review the content, suggesting that the opposition, while loud in comparing sexuality education to rape, was specifically about the principal’s conduct and not about the overall program of instruction.
Organized national opponents of comprehensive sexuality education have used the incident to denounce Planned Parenthood, SIECUS, and the more comprehensive Seattle-King County FLASH Curriculum.7 Despite this, it remains unclear whether the complaints of a few parents will constitute a true local controversy or simply a minor incident writ large by the national opposition.
Click here to view all Community Action Updates.
1Billy Hallowell, "'Raping Their Innocence': Parents Outraged After School Principal Allegedly Teaches 5th Graders About Oral & Anal Sex," TheBlaze.com, 14 June 2012, accessed 21 June 2012, <http://www.theblaze.com/stories/raping-their-innocence-parents-outraged-after-school-principal-allegedly-teaches5th-graders-about-oral-anal-sex/>.
2Todd Starnes, "Parents Furious After School Teaches Graphic Sex Class," Fox News Radio, 14 June 2012, accessed 21 June 2012, <http://radio.foxnews.com/toddstarnes/top-stories/parents-furious-after-school-teaches-5th-graders-about-oral-anal-sex.html>.
4Rita Diller, "School Uses Planned Parenthood Curriculum to Teach Kids Oral Sex," LifeNews.com, 20 June 2012, accessed 21 June 2012, <http://www.lifenews.com/2012/06/20/school-uses-planned-parenthood-curriculum-to-teach-kids-oral-sex/>.