Sex, etc. Draws Fire at Pinelands School Board Meeting

Its Days at Junior High School Media Center Could Be Numbered
Nov 08, 2017
Supplied Photo



It seems as if the magazine Sex, etc. may soon become “Sex, Ex.” at Pinelands Regional Junior High School.

The publication, distributed three times a year by Answer, a national organization based at Rutgers University that provides training, resources, technical assistance and advocacy in support of comprehensive sexuality education, drew fire last month from Peter and Theresa Cardillo of Little Egg Harbor. They have a 12-year-old son who is a Pinelands seventh-grader and they were, to say the least, not amused upon learning of the existence of the magazine in the junior high media center and checking out its contents themselves.

“We consider this publication totally unsuitable for junior high school students, particularly for seventh-grade readers,” read their letter to the editor in the Oct. 25 edition of The SandPaper.

Their reasons for their assessment were many: teens advising teens about sexual issues; content that included discussions about oral and anal sex, “hooking up,” and penis and breast sizes; and a lack of information about the consequences of teenage sexual promiscuity including trauma, long-term psychological issues, post-abortion syndrome and increased risks of suicide, especially among girls.

The Cardillos had approached the Pinelands Regional School District demanding the magazine be removed from the junior high media center but were rebuffed.

“On Oct. 20, my wife and I received a letter from (Interim Superintendent) 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 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.”

The SandPaper published a follow-up article in its Nov. 1 issue.

Lucinda Holt, director of communications for Answer, had emailed Banks congratulating the PRSD for keeping the magazine at the media center. Banks forwarded that email to The SandPaper upon request.

“I recently read about a parent at Pinelands Junior High School who was very concerned about the presence of Sex, etc. magazine in the media center,” Holt wrote in part. “I completely understand that parents are concerned that sex education may lead kids to having more sex or having sex at younger ages. The truth is that 30 year or public health research has shown that young people who receive comprehensive sex education are actually more likely to wait to have sex. They also have fewer sexual partners and are more likely to use condoms and other contraceptives. On the other hand, studies have show that abstinence-only programs fail to demonstrate any effect on delaying or decreasing sexual activity, and some programs may lead to increased risk of pregnancy and STDs. …

“As the publisher of Sex, etc., a sexual health educator, and, most importantly, a parent of a 7th-grader, I was glad to see that after reviewing the resource, the committee deemed it appropriate for the middle school students.”

Holt might not be so glad after a Pinelands Regional Board of Education working session meeting on Monday night, Nov. 6.

In its Nov. 1 article, The SandPaper reported that public opinion on the issue was split. That wasn’t the case at Monday’s BOE meeting, where the magazine received nothing but criticism.

“You all ought to be ashamed of yourselves,” district resident James Smith told the board in reference to the magazine.

Another man told the board he had read a couple of issues of Sex, etc. and “was blown away” by its discussions of anal sex, oral sex and masturbation. He blamed “liberals” for the publication and said he was upset the magazine mentioned nothing about love and sex in the context of marriage or about the negative effects of a promiscuous lifestyle. The man concluded his remarks with a warning.

“You better get this stuff out of here before somebody sues you.”

Many people in the much-larger-than-normal audience, owing to a discussion of the ongoing problems at the Pinelands Regional High School building, applauded the speakers. But it was a school board member, Little Egg Harbor Township representative Stephen Kubricki, who really got his fellow board members thinking about the controversy.

Kubricki had done his research and read off a long, 15-minute, statement.

New Jersey law, said Kubricki, requires that sex education in schools must meet three vital criteria. It must be “age appropriate,” it must be “medically accurate” and it must be “culturally balanced.”

He had reached the conclusion Sex, etc. was not age appropriate for seventh- to ninth-graders. Kubricki quoted The SandPaper’s Nov. 1 article that reported Holt saying “most subscribers (to the magazine) are high schools and a few middle schools,” to back his conclusion.

Kubricki had “examined” three issues of the magazine.

“My assessment … it is not culturally unbiased. Do you think the magazine can undermine family values? My answer – yes.”

The board’s attorney, Amy L. Houch, launched into an explanation of the district’s policy for removing publications from its media centers including the composition of “the committee,” but Jeffrey Bonicky, a board member representing Little Egg Harbor, broke in to say, “Obviously, we are going to be voting on this.” And it was agreed that only the board had the power to remove a publication.

A report of the committee had been on the meeting’s agenda, but that report had been tabled at the recommendation of Banks. So no further action could be taken on Monday evening. It will be on the agenda at the board’s regular meeting of Wednesday, Nov. 15.

In the meantime it was decided at the recommendation of board member Karen Poklikuha of Eagleswood Township that the magazine, which she called “resource material,” would be removed from the general shelving of the media center and placed on the “resource shelf.” In other words, access to the magazine would be controlled. An audience member, who had previously complained from the audience that she wouldn’t want her daughter exposed to the magazine, immediately grabbed copies of Sex, etc., and dumped them on the board’s table.

Unless other parents launch a defense of the magazine it seems that Sex, etc. may be dumped, period, at the Nov. 15 meeting.

— Rick Mellerup


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