CROTON-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. (PIX11) — A Westchester County high school’s recent sex education class is the subject of controversy, with critics saying that the lesson crossed the line of good taste, while students and school district officials defend it as a frank but important conversation on consent and safety.
The lesson at Croton-Harmon High School came under fire after Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino, who formerly served as Westchester County executive, tweeted a list of explicit sexual terms discussed in the class.
Astorino told PIX11 News that he felt parents should be the ones to discuss sex with their kids, to the extent that they’re comfortable doing so.
But school officials defended the lesson, saying that it was developed by experts following an off-campus sexual assault.
As part of the lesson, students were “asked to anonymously generate words or phrases they have heard or used related to sexual activity, some of which depict potentially unhealthy dynamics about sex,” the school district said in a letter circulated to the community.
However, the words and phrases were not defined in the lesson, which turned to a discussion about the connotation of the terms and the importance of using respectful language, the letter said. The school district noted that Astorino did not reach out to the school for information or context on the lesson before taking his criticism public.
Calling some of the language used in the lesson “reprehensible,” Astorino told PIX11 that parents from across the state have voiced concerns to him about sex education in schools.
PIX11 spoke with a few parents outside the school. Some agreed with Astorino, while others were supportive of the lesson plan.
Asked to have a more in-depth conversation about the lesson plan, school district officials referred PIX11 to the letter circulated among the community.
Emily Grunes, a student in the class, said that she was grateful for the lesson.
“What the teacher was doing was just trying to educate us on things that kids would otherwise see on the internet. This is better, to have somebody that is knowledgeable about it and can say what’s right and what’s wrong,” said Grunes.
She attributed a sexual assault that occurred during her freshman year to “a culture that was developed through poor sex education.”