8th grade gender workshops ignite furor

“We do have to protect sexual orientation,” Zahedi said.

Part of the program’s purpose, according to LAMS Guidance Counselor Ryan Carney, was to confront gender stereotypes such as “guys never ask for directions,” and for the boys, to tell them “they really can express emotion.”

The meeting, attended by about 50 parents, District Superintendent Paul Finch and school board members, brought out both opponents and supporters of the school program. Where both groups seemed to intersect, however, was on the issue of parental involvement. The parents said they should have been notified before any such activities occurred. Zahedi agreed, and said the school would seek to notify parents ahead of time in the future.

Because there was no notification this time, parents had depended largely on what was relayed to them by their kids.

Zahedi described the workshops, saying male and female students were taught separately, then each group split into smaller groups to perform exercises and have discussions.

Mandy Coon called into question the supervision of the exercises, saying her daughter told her that as soon as her class began, the teacher packed up her bags and left the room. Zahedi rebutted this, and said that a teacher was listening to the session on the other side of a divider.

In other classes, she added, teachers and administration staff rotated in and out while the Bard students, identified only as two females and one male, worked with students.

Zahedi also tried to explain the exercises, which she said had been misconstrued on social media posts.

“Then they proceeded to have the girls pretend to be on dates with each other and the girls had to go around the room asking other girls if it was ok to kiss them,” one parent wrote on Facebook.

Zahedi explained the idea of the exercise was to practice saying “no” while emphasizing that “no means no.” Zahedi said she was concerned that girls “say yes when they mean no,” and the goal of the activity was “to make your message very clear.” Girls were not pretending to be gay, they were just role-playing, she added.

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