The above story has been playing huge in religious right and conservative circles lately. The story, which not only includes the tale of a forced lesbian kiss but also boys being told to carry condoms in their pockets, has been the talk of several conservative sites from Free Republic to The American Thinker to World Net Daily. The National Organization for Marriage referred to this story in three separate emails last week as an example of what will happen should marriage equality become legal across the country.
Not surprisingly, the story isn’t necessarily true.
According to the school district, during the workshop at Linden Avenue Middle School, no female student was forced to engage in any lesbian kissing, male students were not told to carry condoms, and sexual activity between students was not condoned in any way. The district also said:
During the week of April 9, eighth grade communication sessions were held at Linden Avenue Middle School. These sessions were designed by building leadership and the guidance department. The goals of these sessions were to encourage students to treat one another (and all marginalized groups) with more respect as well as to further develop an appreciation for personal dignity. In response to parental concerns about these sessions Dr. Zahedi, the middle school principal, held an evening informational forum on April 16. This session was well attended and the subsequent feedback has been positive. In addition, the Board of Education and Superintendent of Schools, Paul Finch, addressed the community at the April 24 board meeting on the topic of these sessions. Here again, feedback from the community and students was overwhelmingly positive.
Here is an interesting fact you do need to remember – this story gained steam when it was picked up by Fox News reporter Todd Starnes. While Starnes did cite the area newspaper, The Poughkeepsie Journal, in his post, he choose to add more lurid detail about the alleged lesbian kiss. Also, while The Journal talked about the entire workshop as a whole, Starnes chose to take the “they didn’t even notify the parents” route, thereby playing up a semantical tone that the school was trying to “indoctrinate” students.
On Monday of last week, the district sent Starnes an email asking that he update his story with correct information. It is not known whether or not Starnes chose to update his story but now the school district has to deal with what it calls “hostile and hateful emails” from many who don’t even live in the area. It puts the blame for this solely on Starnes and the organizations – such as NOM – who chose to repeat Starnes’ “inaccurate” story.
My guess is that Starnes had already made up his mind what the “true story” about the workshop was once he heard of the alleged lesbian kiss and condoms.
According to Equality Matters as the “culture reporter” for Fox News, Starnes uses his role as a mouthpiece to not only funnel information from several anti-gay groups, but also to push anti-gay information into the mainstream. Equality Matters points out several other incidents in which Starnes has made it a point to report stories which “depict LGBT equality as a threat to religious and personal freedom.”
In the case of the Red Hook School District, the only threat was most likely Starnes himself. A reporter on a crusade to push a point of view instead of the facts is always dangerous.