Students at Gaia Democratic School in Minneapolis were taken to The Smitten Kitten, a local sex shop.
The Smitten Kitten, definitely not a pet store. (via Facebook)
There's a strong argument to be made for starting kids' sexual education early. Countries that do often report lower instances of teen pregnancy, as well as less regret about early sexual experiences in general. But does that mean schools should take it upon themselves to expose children to the complicated world of adult sexuality? Yes. They just shouldn't bring them to a dildo store without their parents' permission.
That's exactly what happened at Gaia Democratic School, a private K-12 school in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Starri Hedges, the director of the school as well as the sex ed teacher, took about a dozen middle- and high-school-aged students on a field trip to The Smitten Kitten, a local sex shop, last week. There, the students had a frank Q&A with sex educators. The event was held in the front library area of the store, and all pornographic materials were hidden for the duration. However, sex toys and other products were in full view the whole time. The educators demonstrated products that could be used for safe sex (not literally), and some students even bought condoms. Hedges was delighted with the result, telling The Minneapolis Star Tribune:
“What I saw happening on our trip, I thought it was beautiful because kids could talk to these sex educators without any shame, without any fear."
Their parents, on the other hand, had enough shame and fear to go around. They were not consulted before the trip, and now, some of them are fuming mad. They feel that it is the parents' responsibility to teach their children about ball gags and butt plugs, and that Hedges overstepped her bounds. At least one family pulled their children from the school after hearing the news, and city officials are investigating whether the store broke any laws by admitting minors.
Gaia Democratic, meanwhile, is in the clear. As a private school, it's not subject to the authority of the Department of Education. Director Hedges said her only regret is that she "didn't communicate well enough with parents ahead of time." She's right about that, but after reading about this school, I don't know how any parents were surprised that this happened. Its website reads like a parody of a progressive private school.
This can't be for real. (via Facebook)
Housed in a Unitarian church, Gaia Democratic School has roughly 25 students, some of which are described by administrators as transgender. Its education philosophy is focused on "academic freedom, youth empowerment, democratic education, and environmental stewardship." The Smitten Kitten, meanwhile, is like the sex shop version of Gaia Democratic. Specializing in non-toxic, ethically-produced sex toys and educational workshops, it bills itself as "a sex positive space where everyone is welcome."
If you're suffering from Hippie Fatigue after reading that last paragraph, I'm with you. To be honest, I would probably send my kids to that school and go to that store to buy lube if I had kids or needed lube, but both of them could stand to tone it down. We get the idea. In my opinion, this field trip would have been no problem if the parents had just been asked first. What kind of school doesn't use permission slips for that? My parents had to sign a permission slip for my trip to Colonial Williamsburg, and none of those historical reenactors ever showed me how to put on a condom.
The only person who ever showed me how to put on a condom was my gym teacher in middle school sex ed, and she did it bitterly and with a definite lack of sex positivity. Then she showed us a slideshow of STD-riddled genitals while gesticulating at it with a condom-wrapped banana. I would have done anything to have sex ed class in a hippie sex shop run by friendly people with sleeve tattoos. But even then, I would have understood that my parents should know about it.