Sex, etc. Challenged

Oct 25, 2017

To the Editor:

There is a magazine in the Pinelands Junior High School media center titled Sex, etc.

Last month I presented a request to the school board that this publication be removed from the media center. At the public board meeting, I read aloud some of the content you’ll find below, and thought surely this is a slip-up that has somehow escaped notice. I was told that it would take 30 days to review the challenged material, and that after a committee was formed to discuss it, a recommendation would be made to the school board, and a decision would follow. I also asked to know who ordered it, and who approved it. To date, I have not been given any answers.

We consider this publication totally unsuitable for junior high school students, particularly for seventh-grade readers. Our son is 12 years old with his innocence intact (not an easy thing these days). We resent the exposure he has been given to this magazine in which teens (18 and older called “sexperts”) answer the questions of other teens (under 18) – a seriously flawed approach for obvious reasons.

If the school feels it necessary to keep material on hand to help answer sensitive sexual questions of 12- and 13-year-olds, why not provide a magazine where careful answers are provided by mature adults? Would other parents send their preteen son or daughter to an 18- or 19-year-old college student to help answer their questions about sex?

The copy of Sex, etc. that I showed Superintendent Maryann Banks and the board of education has the look of a comic book. Several copies are scattered throughout the media center, along with other back issues of Sex, etc. 

Here is a sampling of the content:

In the Q&A section, one girl writes: “I usually feel insecure about how long it takes me to reach orgasm and I don’t know how to communicate it to my boyfriend.” Another 16-year-old asks: “Is the hookup culture acceptable? I feel like everyone views it as a taboo, and I’ve never minded it.” To this question a staff writer replies that there is “absolutely nothing wrong” with ‘hooking up’ as long as you and your partner “know what you’re getting into.” This 18-year-old male staff writer (or “sexpert”) gives his studied opinion to a 16-year-old male student (a minor), assuring him that there is “absolutely” nothing wrong with having sex whenever, and with whomever. Our 12-year-old, impressionable son can read this, along with other discussions about penis sizes, breast sizes and even references to anal sex.

The comic book edition also features several pages of superheroes: “Captain Condom,” “Super Patch” along with 10 or 12 other contraceptive heroes. These “superheroes” allow your young child to have sex while avoiding unintended pregnancy. “Captain Condom” stands out as best hero because not only will he prevent pregnancy, but he can also stop sexually transmitted diseases.

Once upon a time school libraries lined the shelves with biographies, literary classics, reference materials, adventure stories and a world atlas out on the tables to inspire the imagination. Now the imagination of these young children is directed differently.

My wife and I are two loving and concerned parents who have taught our children that sex is sacred, an amazing gift from God the Creator, designed for enjoyment in the context of marriage and family. Here at school our parental approach is blatantly contradicted.

As superintendent, Dr. Banks had the authority to immediately remove this exceptionally inappropriate material, but she did not because the board lawyer advised her to follow protocol and take a month to decide. There could be a legal issue here, one I intend to explore, namely “contributing to the corruption of a minor.”

My wife and I are not ignorant of the culture, with its push toward gender fluidity, same sex marriage and promiscuity. It’s hard to keep up with the changing landscape as there’s always something new on the horizon. But one thing everyone (including the law) still agrees on is the innocence of young children and the need to protect them.

We parents, not the school district, are responsible for the moral formation of our children. My wife and I certainly are not on board with current cultural trends and agendas. Nor should public education embrace a particular agenda, as it has done by providing this magazine. The school is not neutral on these issues, and the magazine Sex, etc. is anything but neutral on sexual ethics.

I went straight to the board of education because, in our experience, bringing up this discussion with principals, supervisors and previous superintendents yields no meaningful action.

I won’t take the space to speak to the issue of the school’s health education approach now (though it is a related concern), except to say this: Students in the Pinelands Regional District are not being given the full picture. Why don’t they share statistics that challenge the kind of sexual promiscuity many of these teenagers are dangerously involved with? Scientific studies, not religious convictions, consistently point to serious problems associated with early sexual experimentation: trauma, long-term psychological issues, post-abortion syndrome and increased risk for suicide, especially among girls.

The CDC has studies on teen sexuality that are consistently ignored by public school sex educators. The CDC is not a religious organization. Why not present some of the more troubling findings these studies clearly identify? Why no balance? Why so eager to present only one side? Do you imagine that a publication like Sex, etc. will add balance by highlighting these troublesome facts and cautioning our children? There’s nothing wrong with a healthy scare when it is based on facts. No, instead the magazine chooses to make its opinion and values clear, i.e., that there is “absolutely nothing wrong with exploring your sexuality and having fun” (recreational sex).

Because they lack this information, our teens do not have the ability to properly assess risk. When Student Based Youth Services comes into the health education classroom to present on contraception and abortion there is a heavy bias at work. A passing nod is made to abstinence as the only sure way to prevent sexual disease (core curriculum standards require it), but the sum total of the presentation afterward encourages kids to embrace early sexual activity.

College campuses have been dealing with the fall-out for years. Not long ago Time magazine featured a cover story titled “The New Crisis in Higher Education.” What is the “new crisis”? It’s the casual hook-up culture, an epidemic that keeps administrators scrambling. Our own junior high curriculum and others around the country that fail to present abstinence as a serious option are to blame.

One school board member I know of is sympathetic with these concerns, but that is all the feedback I’ve had. The 30 days required to make a decision are nearly up.

Peter and Theresa Cardillo

Little Egg Harbor

P.S. On Oct. 20, my wife and I received a letter from Maryann Banks detailing the outcome of the committee’s discussion along with its recommendation. This letter informs us that the committee, which was put together by a junior high school vice principal, has recommended that the material, which they deem entirely in keeping with curriculum standards and goals, should continue to be made available in the junior high school media center. Dr. Banks also chose to tell us that it was a unanimous decision, and further, that the content in the magazine Sex, etc. is actually suitable for sixth-graders as well.


Comments (1)
Posted by: Jean D Ragone | Oct 26, 2017 08:02

I totally agree with Mr. & Mrs. Cardillo. This magazine should not be readily available for just any middle school student. Upon reading all the headlines today, we are screaming, What’s wrong with parents today who don’t raise their children properly.”  School and educators are complaining that parents do not take an active role in their child’s education, and moral and social  upbringing. If this was a popular PC issue, i’m sure, the magazine would have been banned from the library immediately.

When I began reading the Cardillo’s opinion, I thought they might be overprotective.  However, when I read the magazine excerpts I was appalled by the magazine’s content.  This is NOT sex education.  I, also, got the impression that it is telling kids that it’s okay to have sex as long as you know what the consequences could be.  Seriously?  These kids believe that nothing bad could happen to them.  And using Super Heroes seems to add another layer of approval to CHILDREN engaging in sex

Parent’s have the right, no the obligation, to protect their children. And the school needs to honor that right.  I seriously hope that enough parents will fight having this magazine in their middle school library so that it will be removed. I find the board’s decision to be totally unacceptable, irresponsible and uneducated.

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