The leadership of a Connecticut school district has issued an apology after parents expressed outrage over an assignment that asked students about their likes and dislikes when it comes to sexual activity.
Christopher Drezek, the superintendent of Enfield Public Schools in Enfield, Connecticut, apologized to parents at a school board meeting Tuesday night after eighth-grade students were asked to complete an activity called "Pizza & Consent."
The first page of the assignment, obtained by the advocacy group Parents Defending Education, explains the concept of consent, noting that "We can use pizza as a metaphor for sex!"
According to the document, "When you order pizza with your friends, everyone checks in about each other's preferences, right? Some people might be vegan, some might be gluten-free. Others might love pineapple, while others prefer pepperoni. Some might not like pizza at all. If you're a vegetarian, but your friend is a meat-lover, sharing a pizza is going to bring up a lot of issues. You don't know who you can share a pizza with unless you ask!"
"The same goes with sex!" the worksheet adds. "You have to check in with your partner(s) and ask for their preferences. Your partner(s) might be comfortable with one sexual activity, but not another. Maybe your partner(s) only want to be touched a certain way, or maybe your partner(s) prefer to use certain language. Or maybe they don't like or want sex at all. You'll never know if your wants, desires, and boundaries are compatible with theirs unless you ask."
The first page of the worksheet concludes by calling on students to "start a conversation," contending that "It's the only way sex (and pizza) can be comfortable and enjoyable for everyone."
The second page of the worksheet caused particular concern for instructing students to "explore" their sexual preferences.
"Draw and color your favorite type of pizza. What's your favorite style of pizza? Your favorite toppings? What are your pizza no-nos? Now mirror these preferences in relation to sex!"
In an example provided, a preference for cheese was used as a metaphor for kissing, while a dislike of olives was used as a metaphor for an aversion to oral sex. The worksheet included a blank circle where students were asked to color a pizza based on their favorite types of pizza and their preferred sexual activities. Twenty-two lines were drawn on the worksheet where students were to list their "likes" and "dislikes."
At the Feb. 8 school board meeting, Drezek described the "Pizza & Consent" assignment as a "mistake" and "inappropriate." He added: "I know there are some who may not believe that, I know there are some who don't necessarily maybe want that answer."
"Normally, I would take responsibility and I still do when ... one of our staff members [makes] an inadvertent mistake," Drezek asserted. "In this particular case, I didn't even get a chance to because the person who made the mistake jumped ahead of it before I was even notified that it had happened."
After reiterating that "this was simply an error" and defending the staff member responsible for the mistake, Drezek assured parents that "there was no hidden agenda, there was no secret cabal to indoctrinate kids on something."
Drezek's remarks come after parents addressed their concerns about the assignment at a Jan. 27 school board meeting.
"Since when ... has it become acceptable for a teacher to ask a student what their sexual wants, desires and boundaries are?" asked one parent, identified as Amanda. She took issue with the district's previous explanation that "the incorrect version of this assignment was posted in the curriculum by mistake and inadvertently used for instruction in the classroom."
"Why didn't the teachers that taught this assignment catch it and question it? Do they just teach the curriculum blindly, not questioning the morality of assignments required for the unit? Why didn't our curriculum committee catch this? What is their role, if not to oversee the curriculum and make sure that these types of mistakes don't end up as homework for our children?"
The apology Amanda paraphrased was written by Brie Quartin, Enfield Public Schools' Health and Physical Education Coordinator, in an email to parents obtained by Parents Defending Education. "I caught the error after curriculum revision in June, but failed to post the intended version. I own that, and apologize for the error," she wrote.
The outrage over the distribution of the "Pizza & Consent" assignment comes at a time when parents across the U.S. are confronting their local school boards to express displeasure about the inclusion of sexually explicit material in school curriculums and in school libraries. The books Gender Queer and Lawn Boy, available in high school libraries in Fairfax County, Virginia, and other school districts, have caused particular concern for parents.
As Fairfax County parent Stacy Langton explained at a school board meeting last year, "Both books describe different sex acts." Additionally, she lamented, "both of these books include pedophilia, [and] sex between men and boys."
"One book describes a fourth-grade boy performing oral sex on an adult male. The other book has detailed illustrations of a man having sex with a boy," Langton said. She elaborated on the contents of the graphic illustrations, which include "fellatio, sex toys, masturbation and violent nudity."
While the books were removed from Fairfax County Public Schools' high school libraries for a brief period of time, they were reinstated after an investigation. At around the same time that Langton was raising concerns about Gender Queer and Lawn Boy, the Mayor of Hudson, Ohio, appeared at a school board meeting in his city and called on the members of the school board to resign for allowing the use of a book with sexually explicit writing prompts in a college-level English class offered at the district's high school.