A conference for LGBTQ youth in Iowa is being investigated after one teacher, who describes herself as an ally to the LGBTQ community, said the conference exposed students to vulgar language and X-rated material.
Jamie Ehlert, who teaches social studies at West Des Moines Valley High School, was one of two co-sponsors who attended the conference last April with her school's anti-bullying group. Ehlert later sent a letter to the Iowa House Government Oversight Committee, complaining about the nature of the content that was presented.
The annual conference is organized by Iowa Safe Schools, a private organization that raises awareness about bullying among LGBTQ youth, the Des Moines Register reported.
“Unfortunately, we did not learn much regarding anti-bullying. Instead, we were exposed to extremely vulgar language and X-rated material,” Ehlert wrote in the letter to state lawmakers.
According to Ehlert, one of the speakers at the conference, comedian Sam Killerman, explained how to browse the Internet for "orgies" and find pornography. Killerman also taught students how to send naked photos of themselves and the legality of adults having sex with underage minors. Another speaker talked to students about websites involving safe sexual bondage and explained how to have sex "dangerously, but safely."
"This is not the message that our students need to hear,” Ehlert's letter stated. “We are working hard to eliminate hate and bullying against all people, not shift the aggression from one group to another.”
A bipartisan group of lawmakers was set to meet Wednesday to discuss the conference. Among them was Rep. Ruth Ann Gaines, a Democrat from Des Moines. "I would hope that nothing like that ever happens again,” Gaines said, adding that the conference should still continue.
Rep. Greg Heartsill, a Republican from Columbia, called the letter “very shocking" while his GOP colleague Rep. Bobby Kaufmann from Wilton said that the state should acknowledge that what happened at the conference was "inappropriate" but that "99 percent of the conference is just fine.”
Iowa Safe Schools Executive Director Nate Monson pushed back against all the criticism, saying that "some people have misconstrued some jokes."
"We feel that students should have a right to ask about their bodies," Monson said. "That is part of sex ed."
Republican Gov. Terry Branstad's communication's director, Ben Hammes, declined to comment on the controversy, citing the fact that the conference is a private event run by a private entity.
(H/T: Des Moines Register)