How do You Protect Your Kids? By Supporting Sex Educators!
As a superhero dedicated to educating & empowering youth around the world, I understand the complexities around the topic of sex education. And too often, folks disagree with my mission to share accurate, shame-free sex ed. They believe kids are “too young” or “too innocent” to learn about sex. While that might be a genuine belief, (or a cover story for their own shame, religion or lack of adequate education in their youth,) we can't let outdated ideologies stop us from doing right by the children in our lives.
Today, I want to share about an unfortunate experience a renowned sex educator, Justine Fonte, recently went through, just for doing her job: providing accurate, age-appropriate sex ed in school. After 9 years of devoting herself to the students of Dalton School in Manhattan, sudden backlash from parents led to a cowardly, anonymous media attack on Fonte's credibility and ultimately resulted in her resignation.
As the director of health and wellness at Dalton she created the entire curriculum for grades K-12, in addition to being a respected sex educator who spoke at forums, hosted workshops, and taught presentations at other schools in New York City. However, when she was invited to teach two zoom sessions on pornography literacy and consent, to juniors and seniors at Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School, parents complained and sparked online outrage. Her curriculum, taken completely out of context, instigated debates about “teaching masturbation to first graders” even though a) understanding proper anatomy and function is within the National Sex Education Standards and guidelines from the World Health Organization and b) this was not what Fonte's course was covering.
Fonte’s session covered pornography education and consent, two under-discussed topics, especially in public sex education. In fact, a 2013 analysis of research from around the world, suggests that anywhere between 43% to 99% of children have seen porn. With their first exposure often happening at around 10 to 11 years, and increasing with age. Additionally, only 7 states require consent education to be a part of the curriculum.
After learning these statistics, the expectation is that parents would be more likely to support a lesson like Fonte’s. Yet as we see, demonstrated from Fonte's recent experience, there are still many parents -- including those of financial influence-- who would prefer to uphold harmful tradition and ideology over the wellbeing of students. If dedicated teachers like Fonte are forced to resign, this robs students of a teacher who cares about their health and an education that prepares them for their own development and the realities of modern culture.
As reported to the New York Times, Fonte says her curriculum, “equip(s) [students] with a way that they can exercise body agency and consent, by knowing exactly what those parts are, what they are called, and how to take care of them... That was paired with lessons around, what are the different ways to say ‘no’? And what’s the difference between a secret and a surprise? And why you should never have a secret between a grown-up and you. Because it’s never your responsibility as a child to hold a secret or information of a grown-up.”
I can identify a superhero when I see one. Fonte is highly qualified and equally passionate about protecting children, preparing them for the realities of this world, and giving them the tools they need to develop healthy sexuality.
When parents immediately feel outrage, without digging deeper to understand the long-proven benefits of comprehensive sex ed, they can inadvertently harm kids by preventing them from receiving the vital education they need!