School officials are looking into students' concerns that a speaker discussed God and made offensive stereotypical remarks at a recent Natrona County High School assembly.
Shelly Donohue, a speaker from the Colorado-based WAIT Training group, gave a presentation April 19 about why students should abstain from sex before marriage. WAIT stands for "Why am I tempted?"
Seniors Bob Kubichek and Peter Barrasso came to this week's school board meeting with their concerns.
"This year the woman they brought in was, to say the least, off the ideological spectrum," Kubichek told the board Monday. Kubichek regularly addresses the board in his role as student body president.
He said she talked about God for several minutes.
He claimed she also said, "You should try to maintain a close relationship with God."
"That's all great," Kubichek said, "but when you're talking about public health, you should be dealing with a secular-based, public health message."
Board president Ken Daraie said the presentation sounded "inappropriate" to him. School district attorney Kathleen Dixon talked to students after the board meeting.
Daraie said the board would follow up but that he hasn't yet heard back from Dixon to decide how the board might proceed. A receptionist at Dixon's law office said she was gone this week.
Donohue said she talked about spirituality in her address, but knows she's not supposed to talk about God in a public school.
Spirituality is one of five aspects of sexuality, she said she told the students, with the others being physical, emotional, social and intellectual.
"I say, 'Do you get closer to your god or do you get farther away when you have sex?'" Donohue said. The students are supposed to answer in response, "Farther away," and they did, she said.
Her talk also touched on sexually transmitted diseases and the risks of sex.
Donohue said she could see Kubichek taking "vigorous notes" during her talk and afterwards, he questioned her about where she got her data. She told him the Centers for Disease Control, among other places.
After the talk, Donohue said, several students came to her and said things like "This is awesome" or "How come nobody's ever told me this before."
"The outpouring and the positive was so much greater than this one kid's complaint," she said.
Caitlyn Metcalf, a junior at NCHS, also was troubled by the talk. She wished the speaker would have discussed contraception and disease prevention as options.
"I think overall she used a lot of scare tactics," Metcalf said. "She was saying things that were just scaring people away from making safer choices."
Sex education is touched on in the school health classes but those classes are not required at the high school, Metcalf said.
She was also bothered by comparisons between boys and girls.
When it comes to sexual arousal, Donohue told the students, boys are like microwaves - they heat up quickly - and girls are like crock pots.
The WAIT Training curriculum also includes analogies about how boys and girls think. Boys are like waffles, compartmentalizing feelings, while girls are like spaghetti, with their feelings about parts of their lives entangled, Donohue told students while holding up a bag of noodles.
Donohue also told the students that in high school, "Girls are more feelings-oriented, and boys are more facts oriented," she said. She told them boys tend to like math, science and numbers.
"For people to be offended by it, it could be stereotypical, but that's how kids are wired, so you're just speaking the truth to them," she explained later.
Natrona County High School Principal Byron Moore said that part of the message bothered him because the school works to encourage girls to excel in math and science. But on the balance, he said, the talk was valuable for students.
Other students did enjoy the speaker.
Aaron Bassham, a junior, thought Donohue covered health concerns well and was pleased she also talked about how sex has emotional and spiritual dimensions.
"It's definitely good to see the detrimental effects that (premarital sex) can have on a teenager, or any other person for that matter," he said. "I thought the message behind it was very good. It's a message that I've heard many times before, from church and reading the Bible.
"I haven't ever heard the abstinence message in school before."
Reach Barbara Nordby at (307) 266-0633 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.