Some parents are outraged after the leader of a small Minneapolis private school took about a dozen middle- and high-school-aged students on a sex education field trip to an adult novelty store late last week.
“It’s just a major breach of trust,” said Lynn Floyd, whose 11- and 13-year-old daughters were part of the outing to the Smitten Kitten. “You just can’t erase those images.”
A leader of Gaia Democratic School and the host of the field trip defended the outing, saying the visit capped a monthslong sex education class.
Director Starri Hedges, who also teaches the school’s sex education class, said she wanted to provide a safe and welcoming environment for students to learn about human sexual behavior.
“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,” Hedges said Monday.
Gaia is a K-12 school with a motto promising academic freedom, youth empowerment and democratic education. Parents say the school has about 25 students....
While at Smitten Kitten, students sat in the front in a library section of the store, Hedges said. Everything deemed pornographic was off limits to the students, though sex toys and other products were visible, Hedges said.
The field trip offered students access to educators and products that could be used to practice safer sex, Hedges said. Some students bought condoms, she said.
Smitten Kitten, which bills itself as “a progressive sex toy store for everyone,” sells a range of toys and leather products as well as books and DVDs. The store also offers workshops, like the kind the students participated in.
“The sexual health aspect, there is no right age for all kids,” Hedges said. “You can’t say, ‘All kids should know this at this age.’ There are students that are already going through puberty at 10 or 11.”
Floyd said he is most troubled that parents were never notified before the trip. “I just struggled to think that I wasn’t involved in that,” he said.
The store’s owner, Jennifer Pritchett, said in an e-mail Monday that she considers Smitten Kitten to be “an educational resource about sex and sexuality. … We leave it up to the discretion of parents and guardians as to when, if, and in what capacity they seek resources from our educators.”Not sure what qualifies employees at an adult novelty shop to be "sex educators" as Hedges calls them.
Smitten Kitten was cited by Minneapolis zoning officials for having sexually explicit materials that were not in a separate section of the store. Because that adult material was not covered up, minors should not have been there according to city officials. Smitten Kitten was not fined but merely told to fix the violations.