Parents at Elite Manhattan School Outraged That Their Children Are Being Taught Sex Ed

Parents at the elite school don't want their children learning about masturbation

Child raises hand in classroom
"Back in my day, kids learned about sex the old fashioned way: they simly didn't."

There are only two kinds of people: those who believe American students need more and better sex ed, and those who think our nation’s youth should learn about sex the old-fashioned way — that is, by never talking about it with trusted adults and educators and just sort of figuring it out one day, but not before internalizing a lot of shame that will probably cause longterm damage to their sex lives.

Parents at Manhattan’s elite Dalton School seem to fall into the latter category, or so suggests an outcry among a certain circle of mothers who were reportedly enraged to learn their first-grade children were learning about consent and healthy masturbation practices in the classroom. The New York Post reports drama broke out at the A-list prep school over the curriculum last fall, which included lessons from Dalton’s health and wellness educator Justine Ang Fonte that covered gender identity, consent, sex organs and self-pleasure. Pearl-clutching parents at the posh $55,000 per year school told the Post they were “furious” and “horrified” over the content of the lessons, which one called “pure indoctrination,” but were afraid to speak out “because you’ll get canceled and your child will suffer.”

One lesson that proved to be a particular point of chagrin for parents includes what various outlets have misleadingly referred to as a “masturbation video.” Contrary to what that language might suggest, the video in question is very much not one that shows masturbation. In fact, as Fonte has assured anxious parents, it doesn’t even use the offending word. Rather, the controversial video is a cartoon in which young children ask questions about their bodies and why touching certain parts of them “feels good,” and a kind adult explains in practical terms using anatomically correct language. The lessons also teach children not to engage in this kind of behavior in public.

Unfortunately, age-appropriate lessons helping children to understand a very natural thing they’re probably already doing with their bodies in a shame-free context is apparently not what Dalton parents are paying more than most people make in a year for. Parents also took issue with lessons on gender identity — which one mother referred to as “age-inappropriate material about transgender” — and consent, which included material instructing children that anyone who wants to touch them should have their permission first, a lesson one mother reportedly summed up as follows: “I’m paying $50,000 to these a–holes to tell my kid not to let her grandfather hug her when he sees her?”

Fonte, whose work at the Dalton School is reportedly funded by a $450,000 grant given to the school in 2012 by hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square Foundation, is no stranger to outrage. The educator recently found herself in hot water over a porn literacy workshop she led for high schoolers at another elite prep school.

Meanwhile, Fonte isn’t the only one trying to bring more progressive sex education to younger students. In recent years, a group of educators and activists have developed the LETS! T.A.L.K. initiative, a program designed to introduce age-appropriate sex education to children beginning in kindergarten. This doesn’t mean that six-year-olds are putting condoms on bananas. Rather, as in Fong’s curriculum, these programs are designed to help children understand their bodies in a way that is relevant to their current state of sexual development. Because, like it or not, children are humans with human body parts, and they have a right to know and understand those bodies. As developmental scientist Emily Waterman told InsideHook last year, “Children from birth can be taught consent behaviors, knowing that their own body is worth protecting, that their body’s theirs, that they’re allowed to say ‘no,’ that they should ask for permission to touch someone else.” After all, she added, “If they can know what an arm is, there’s no reason they can’t know what a penis is.”

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