A Colorado school district issued an apology after coming under fire for a sexually explicit assignment given to students without their parents’ consent.
“We regret if members of our community were offended,” Brad Meeks, Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent, said in a statement after a 16-year-old student alerted her father about the graphic assignment in her “Music Literature” class, Fox News reported.
(Video: Fox News)
Steamboat Springs High School teacher Ryan Ayala apologized to Brett Cason and his family in a letter for the “most offensive” material covered in his class, as he had created a lesson around the poem “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg, and had not checked with parents before assigning the sexually-charged project which required students to fill in blanks such as “f***ed in the a**” and “c***” among other explicit language.
Cason’s daughter Skylar had to listen with her classmates as their teacher reportedly “read every word of the text out loud,” according to a letter sent to Meeks by the legal organization First Liberty Institute. The letter also included an email to the Casons from Ayala apologizing “for not doing my utmost to create a comfortable learning environment for Skylar.”
The teenager recounted in the letter that she was feeling “guilty” and “violated,” and as “if her skin were crawling, each of the numerous times her teacher vocalized the word, ‘c***.’”
Fox News reported:
The poem was in a book approved by the school board, but it had the words considered offensive censored. Ayala had students fill in the censored parts of the poem.
Skylar explained feeling guilty and shameful as her teacher asked them about the symbolism of the phrase “granite c–k” during a classroom discussion. In another assignment students were asked to review a song that talked about sexting and offering sexual favors to a teenager, something that “blindsided” school officials when they found out about it from Cason.
“Students should never feel shame and guilt as part of an assignment at school,” Jeremy Dys, First Liberty special counsel who is representing Cason, told Fox News.
“In the age of MeToo and Harvey Weinstein, it’s hard for me to understand why Superintendent [Brad] Meeks would think requiring teenage girls to meditate on a song normalizing sexting would be acceptable,” Dys said.
“If they want to teach on controversial materials, they can, but they should warn parents and give them an opportunity to choose an alternative assignment,” he added.
First Liberty asked for an apology to parents in a letter to the district and urged training of staff on school policies. A committee reviewed “Howl” and other poems which contain “descriptions of sexual matters,” deciding that the so-called literary works would not be removed from the curriculum.
But, according to a statement from the superintendent, Ayala had not given parents any advance notice as procedure would have required.
“For that, we apologize,” Meeks said in the statement, regretting that “parents were not given advance notice that would have allowed them to opt their child out of participating” in the lesson on a poem “considered controversial by some for its use of expletives and portrayals and descriptions of sexual matters.”
The district is “working to ensure that all of our teachers are aware of proper procedures around incorporating controversial materials and follow them,” Meeks added. “Students who choose not to engage in the material will be given an alternative assignment.”
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