Westchester County

Westchester School District Defends Controversial Sex Ed Lesson

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino said "several" parents of students at the school contacted him saying it is not acceptable for such things to be shared in a classroom

NBC Universal, Inc.

A classroom controversy in a Westchester town has some saying that the sex education lesson went over the line — but the school district is standing by it.

A list of sexually explicit words, acts and phrases isn’t what most would expect to see in a high school classroom. The discussion that generated the whiteboard's contents — with a variety of R-rated and very NSFW terms and phrases relating to sex, including one that somehow referenced a Pokémon character — has led to talks about whether the lesson on sex education was appropriate.

The sex ed lesson at Croton-Harmon High School involved 10th graders, the school district told NBC New York. The district said that some parts of their curriculum were developed after an incident several years ago involving a reported off-campus sexual assault.

In consultation with health professionals, the Croton-Harmon School District said it developed “a discussion about consent, (where) students are asked to anonymously generate words or phrases they have heard…some of which depict potentially unhealthy dynamics about sex.”

The district added that “there is a discussion about the overall connotation of these terms, and the importance of using respectful language around this sensitive topic."

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino said "several" parents of students at the school contacted him saying it is not acceptable for such things to be shared in a classroom.

"No media outlet, nor will the school district, list all those words or show those words or allow them to be said," Asotrino said. "These kids themselves can’t go to a movie that’s R-rated or NC-17, and yet they’re having these discussions in class, which makes a lot of kids very uncomfortable and parents angry that they weren’t told about it, at the very least."

However, some parents seemed to agree with the school, and believe it's important for students of a certain age to have those sort of discussions.

"I do understand their concern and it ultimately makes sense, but that’s something you take to the school," said Joan Corsetti. "Most of the community is saying that what happened in that classroom was absolutely appropriate for the students that were in there."

While sex education isn’t required in New York State, it’s taught in many schools. There are no set standards about what should and shouldn’t be included, except for awareness about HIV and AIDS.

"I think a lot of parents probably are very busy and throw up their hands and say schools have to do it, but if they don’t do it to their requirements and their feelings about it, then they get angry," said Croton-on-Hudson resident Frances Harkness. "It’s a tough place for school boards to be in."

But Astorino isn't convinced that such language and lessons have a place in schools.

"Sex education — dealing with biology and reproduction, that’s important. They should know that," he said. "But when you go well beyond that to something that’s completely inappropriate, that makes kids very uncomfortable, that might plant a seed to do some of these violent acts. That again, is where I put the brakes on and parents need to be part of the process."

The district said the learning experience appears on a curriculum “map” on its website, and the superintendent says he stands behind the lesson and his teachers.

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