When Bard College students recently held anti-bullying workshops at a middle school on topics like gender identity and consent, instructors split boys and girls into two groups to practice "saying no" in a comfortable setting. Cut to: Fox News claiming that the girls' class promoted "lesbian role play" while boys were taught to "decipher" whether girls are sluts. Next: the National Organization for Marriage sent out three very concerned emails calling the class a "terrible example” of the consequences of marriage equality. The school has asked Fox to correct its story, but the "lesbian indoctrination" lies keep keeping on via conservative outlets. This is how your conservative hysteria/total crock of shit sausage gets made.
From the Red Hook Central School District and the Poughkeepsie Journal, here's what really happened at Linden Avenue Middle School in Red Hook, New York: some parents were upset that they weren't notified in advance of the aforementioned health class lesson, which "focused on improving culture, relationships, communication and self-perceptions," according to superintendent Paul Finch. Those are issues schools are required to to address under New York’s Dignity for All Students Act. Linden Avenue Principal Katie Zahedi and guidance counselors worked with Bard students to develop the workshop, which included helpful role-playing on how to say no to "unwanted social pressures."
One 14-year-old girl told her mom she was weirded out by words like "pansexual" and "genderqueer" and embarrassed about being told to "request a kiss" from a female peer. Of course she was: we need the Dignity for All Students Act because most middle schoolers are dicks who are indoctrinated by our homophobic culture to think it's abnormal to be anything but straight.
Still, Zahedi reiterated in a Facebook post that the exercise wasn't about "pretending to be gay" but saying no to unwanted advances: “In planning the discussion, we made it clear that absolutely no discussion of any sexual acts is appropriate to middle school, and they used the examples of a kiss,” she wrote. “It was a separate activity for boys and girls and ultimately about respect and safety.”
Expert Fox News journalist Todd Starnes caught on to the very minor controversy and deduced this: "Middle School Anti-Bullying Lesson Includes Lesbian Role Play." His lead paragraph: "Young girls at a New York middle school were instructed to ask one another for a lesbian kiss and boys were given guidance on how to tell if women are sluts during an anti-bullying presentation on gender identity and sexual orientation, angry parents allege."
Starnes interviewed the mother of the girl who was upset by the lecture. “She told me, ‘Mom, we all get teased and picked on enough – now I’m going to be called a lesbian because I had to ask another girl if I could kiss her,’” the woman said. Ironically, the goal of the program was to teach kids that it's wrong to make fun of lesbians. Fox's goal was to convince readers that the program was trying to turn kids INTO lesbians, which is only a step above turning kids into terrorists or Obama supporters.
The National Organization for Marriage, never one to miss an opportunity to spread misleading information, sent out three separate emails about how the class was a “terrible example” of the consequences of marriage equality: one about Delaware, one about Rhode Island, and another for fundraising (via ThinkProgress):
My friend, this is what’s at stake: our right to raise our children with our values, free from indoctrination into alternative “lifestyles” under the guise of “anti-bullying,” “tolerance” and “gender identity.” [...]
The school district tried to clear things up on its website, reiterating that girls were never forced to engage in "lesbian kissing," male students weren't told to carry condoms and sexual activity was not promoted in any way. It also posted a letter Finch wrote to Starnes, asking him to "update your article to more accurately reflect what actually occurred." It doesn't appear that Starnes listened, as "college students worked with principal to try and help kids respect one another under guidelines outlined by state law" is not as incendiary a story as "liberal arts college students make middle school girls scissor each other." It's clear who the real bullies are.