Parents outraged after educator takes kids on sex shop field trip

Jun 3, 2015 at 5:00 p.m. ET
Image: Getty Images

The line between creative teaching and bad judgment are being called into question when a Minneapolis teacher thought it was OK to take students to a sex toy shop.

What would you do if your child came home and told you about a field trip to a sex toy shop? Some parents of students at the Gaia Democratic School are questioning why and how this happened without their knowledge in the first place.

"What I saw happening on our trip, I thought it was beautiful, because kids could talk to these sex educators without any shame, without any fear," Starri Hedges told the Star Tribune.

Hedges is not only the school's sex education class instructor but also the director of the independent Minneapolis institution. Priding itself on academic freedom, youth empowerment and cooperative learning, Starri made a quick decision to take regular attendees of her sex education class to Smitten Kitten, "a progressive sex toy store." While the field trip did have some restrictions (pornographic content and products were off-limits), sex-related toys and products were in plain view. Hedges even notes some children purchased condoms.

Students in attendance were middle and high school age.

Even though Starri admits her lack of communication to parents before the trip, the overall experience was quite informative. "It was certainly the first time we have taken that kind of field trip, and it will probably be our last, which I feel bad [about] because the kids had so much fun," notes Hedges. Smitten Kitten store owner Jennifer Pritchett also believes her shop is an educational resource when it comes to sex. In addition to offering sex toy products, Smitten Kitten also gives workshops to educate the public.

Since the impromptu field trip, parents of student attendees have had mixed reactions — with the most popular being outrage. "It's just a major breach of trust," said Lynn Floyd, mom of two daughters who attended the field trip. A few have already begun pulling their children from the school.

Sex education can get very tricky, as programs can and will vary among schools. Especially when you consider Gaia Democratic School is independent or private, states have little to no authority when it comes to acceptable curricula. This means parents have to rely on the teachers to pass along information, which in this case did not seem to happen.

I'm no teacher and do believe in creative learning, but I am not too sure about this approach. While field trips do provide a breath of fresh air from the classroom, a sex toy shop might not be the appropriate venue. It seems like it would be very easy for the message of safe sex and the reproductive system to get lost in a sea of pleasure toys.

More about sex education

Mommalogues: Should sex education teach kids that sex is about pleasure?
Abstinence-only sex education is a joke
Is sex education going too far?