Private school educator in New York City, Justine Ang Fonte, faced harsh criticism from parents after a Zoom session she did with Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School junior and senior students on pornographic literacy and consent.

The New York Times reports that Fonte found herself featured in a number of news articles including “Students and parents reel after class on ‘porn literacy’” from the New York Post, and another titled “Dalton parents enrage over ‘masturbation’ videos for first grader.” Dalton school, the private school Fonte had been employed by, did not seem to offer her much backup in regard to the growing backlash. As a result, she stepped down.

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In a statement, the school said that Ms. Fonte “helped develop an exemplary K-12 health and wellness program” and that her work should not be “overshadowed by unwarranted misinformation and hateful rhetoric.” Many comments have been made from other sex educators that nothing was found to be inappropriate about Fonte’s classes at Dalton or at Columbia. Additionally, everything was in line with current Nation Sex Education Standards and the World Health Organization’s International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education.

In fact, W.H.O. guidelines state that between the ages of 5 and 8, children should learn to “identify the critical parts of the internal and external genital sand describe their basic function” and “recognize that being curious about one’s body, including the genitals, is completely normal.” Ms. Fonte reported that the term “masturbation” was never used with her material for her first-grade class and that the lesson was about private parts being private.

“I equip them with a way that they can exercise body agency and consent, by knowing exactly what those parts are, what they are called, and how to take care of them,” Ms. Fonte said. “That was paired with lessons around, what are different ways to say ‘no’? And what’s the difference between a secret and a surprise? And why you should never have a secret between a grown-up and you. Because it’s never your responsibility as a child to hold a secret or information of a grown-up.”

Fonte later said, “I wanted to believe that Columbia Prep was a school that was ready to take on these issues in an educational, intellectual way and at least one person at that school trusted that I could do it.  And I did. But they weren’t ready to back it up, and it cost me my safety.”

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