It seems that politics don’t need to play out on the national stage to be an absolutely bonkers nightmare. Just ask all the main players in Mercer, Wisconsin’s drama-riddled race for a spot on the school board. This one’s a bit of a doozy, but suffice it to say it involves three main things: the enduring national shame of the poorly written and acted erotica otherwise known as Fifty Shades of Grey, a supersize portion of parental concern and a restraining order.
This one’s a little complicated, so you may want to go pop some popcorn and settle in for this tale. Go ahead, we’ll wait.
What started out as a little extracurricular movie viewing has now turned into a bit of a slap fight between a teacher named Robyn Schoeneman and a parent named Christa Reinert, with Schoeneman accusing Reinert of harassment, intimidation and slander and enacting a restraining order against her. Reinert, for her part, says she hasn’t harassed anyone and calls the restraining order politically motivated.
So where do Jamie Dornan’s too-small face and Dakota Johnson’s permanent grimace come in? Well, apparently Schoeneman and a school board member and coach named Kelly Kohegyi chaperoned a group of girls on a volleyball tournament road trip, and when they made a pit stop, a bunch of the girls asked Schoeneman to rent the film so they could watch it in the car. Schoeneman says she initially balked but caved when the girls pointed out that only the juniors and seniors — all of whom were over 17 and all of whom would be riding in Kohegyi’s car — would be watching it and that some of them had watched it before.
So Schoeneman rented it, Kohegyi played it, and by all accounts, everything was fine. None of the other parents, a school board representative said, had any objections to the film being shown to a bunch of kids who picked it out and were old enough to be subjected to its terrible character tropes, weird ideas about what healthy S&M play looks like and Dakota Johnson’s comically large bangs.
Except for Reinert, that is. She’s the parent of a 14-year-old who was on the trip — who didn’t see the movie — and boy, is she ever mad.
What happens next is up for debate. Schoeneman says Reinert started harassing her, sending her passive-aggressive threats that included the wording of a state statute describing the felony act of showing children “harmful or pornographic material,” which is a common tactic pedophiles use when grooming their victims, and that she sent an anonymous letter to the sheriff, urging him to investigate Schoeneman for sex crimes.
Reinert says Schoeneman didn’t seem to find this particularly intimidating until Reinert announced her bid for school board. It’s a mess.
But let’s back up a second. Did Schoeneman and Kohegyi do anything wrong by letting a bunch of high school girls watch a terrible erotica movie? Eh.
Maybe Schoeneman shouldn’t have rented it. If the school district is to be believed, then both she and Kohegyi were disciplined for that. But they didn’t show it to anyone under 17, or indeed, they didn’t show it at all. It’s not like they gave out an assignment on the content in a crossword puzzle or anything — they just allowed the girls to watch it. None of the other parents seem to be too scandalized except for Reinert, and it does sort of leave us wondering why.
There was a time when if your kid did something that was explicitly against the rules — sneaked out to a friend’s house, duped the nice Sunday school teacher into letting them watch crappy erotica or stole some of your neighbor’s vodka for a little tipple — you’d be really mad at your kid. You wouldn’t be mad at your kid’s friend’s parent or the nice CCD woman or even your vodka-loving neighbor.
Your anger would be directed at your scheming — if at least red-blooded and otherwise pretty normal — teenager for being an idiot.
That’s because your kid is not a barely sentient blob incapable of making their own decisions. Neither adult on the trip pried the girls’ eyelids open and pinned them there Clockwork Orange-style and forced them to watch Dornan and Johnson do a terrible impression of two people who want to hump each other in a dungeon.
They were not at school, and at 17, if they go home and say, “Guys, I watched a little bad erotica today,” and that statement makes their parents angry, the correct answer is some variation of, “I’m really disappointed in you, you’re grounded,” not “How dare that teacher? Doesn’t she know you won’t have any agency until the day you turn 18 and the magical responsibility switch flips?”
What happened to blaming kids and not the adults who are unfortunate to be privy to their idiocy when they do dumb stuff? Children, particularly teenagers, are capable of thinking for themselves, and they’re capable of making terrible decisions, just like the rest of us humans.
If we all keep letting the consequences for those decisions slide off them like the microwaveable Fifty Shades of Grey licensed massage oil available at Walmart and instead deflect it toward teachers and other adults, how will they ever learn that they alone are responsible for their awful life and movie choices?
Before you go, check out our slideshow below: