On Tuesday, 2,100 Louisiana students were bussed from their Baton Rouge high schools to what they thought would be a college and career fair. Instead, they were taken to a church, separated by gender, and given two wildly different, disturbingly sexist experiences.
The “girl talk” went first and consisted of three speakers, one of whom discussed the importance of forgiving a rapist or abuser. According to a high school student who attended the event, the speaker said that she forgave an ex-boyfriend who attempted to strangle her to death. Alexis Budyach wrote on Facebook that the speaker emphasized if she’d “waited for the man God meant for her,” then the abuse wouldn’t have happened. “She [used] this to essentially shame the concept of ‘dating around’ and took a soulmate-esque approach on the situation,” wrote Budyach. “In addition, she explained that she had forgiven her ex boyfriend for his attempted murder, even if he wasn’t sorry.”
Another speaker, a pastor, preached abstinence and talked about how she was proud to have been a virgin throughout high school and college. And a third, a nurse, talked about suicide, according to accounts posted on Facebook by angry students and parents who felt deceived by the event.
“They talked about rape, forgiving the offender in life, suicide, prayer leadership, and many more dark controversial topics,” said chaperone Brittney Bryant, a high school teacher with a senior son who attended the event at Living Faith Christian Center. “We had females in the bathrooms crying due to the topics of discussion. Meanwhile, the boys were left outside in the extreme heat.”
Bryant said her transgender son was “discriminated against for walking out” of the girl talk.
Bryant stayed for the boys’ portion of the event, which was billed as “real talk.” She said that the focus for the boys was not on speakers, but rather, they held a push-up competition and played games where winners were awarded with money. “They were hyped up and egged on,” said Bryant, who added she was “physically disgusted” by the events of the day. Bryant wrote that she heard accounts of transgender students being bullied, with some getting water poured on their heads with no repercussions from nearby adults. In order to get lunch, the students had to register to vote.
“The majority of students chose to attend this field trip on the promise of free food and the opportunity to skip class,” wrote Budyach. “However the majority of students were not only disappointed by this event, but traumatized as well.”
Budyach’s mother spoke with The Advocate and said the flyer she received before the event had a street address, but didn’t mention the religious affiliation, or she wouldn’t have signed the permission slip.
The event was hosted with the support of non-profit group 29:11 Mentoring Families. The group’s leader, Tremaine Sterling, told the newspaper the focus was providing “resources and tools to young people as they prepare for their next steps after high school.”
Bryant pointed out that as a teacher, she’s not allowed to voice her religious or political views in the classroom, “yet it’s ok for the district’s leader to support and fund an event that could cost me my career.”