A school assembly meant to heighten sensitivity to bullying backfired in the Iroquois School District with parents complaining that it instead focused on homosexuality.
Parents filled a school board meeting Wednesday to vent over the two-hour video and assembly featuring openly gay speaker Jamie Nabozny that was held Oct. 24 and 25 for students in the middle and high schools.
“I am shocked the district would allow 11-year-olds to see this,” Shannon Kedge, a mother of a fifth- and 10th-grader said. “I want to know why we didn’t know and have the chance to opt out. The school overstepped its boundaries.”
She accused Nabozny of pushing his own “agenda,” especially when he gave students permission to keep in touch with him on Facebook.
Darrin Caparaso, father of four and a family physician, said that the number one reason for bullying is a person’s weight, and the video showed no solutions for that problem. He also found Nabozny’s claim to students that Lady Gaga is a role model offensive.
“The people in this room are role models, parents, family, teachers,” Caparaso said.
He noted 10 of the 15 song lyrics on the singer’s new album, just released this week, are labeled as “explicit.”
Even before parents spoke, Board President Charles Specht addressed the matter, saying that the district had been hearing from irate parents since the assembly.
“I feel we let the public down by not asking more questions. Though some (students) got the message, others didn’t. We need to try to get an individual that they can better identify with,” Specht said.
Superintendent Douglas Scofield agreed that the assembly “fell short” of its goal. He suggested that the district survey students to ask them what kinds of challenges they’re facing. Going forward, he assured parents they will be notified when a speaker is coming in or an assembly is planned and the topic of discussion.
Specht said he would take parents’ suggestions under advisement. Among those were the possibility of parents opting their student out of an assembly and having another assembly to get the message right.