A small private school in Minnesota made headlines this week after its principal took some middle- and high-school students on a field trip to a sex shop.
Starri Hedges, director and sex education teacher at Gaia Democratic School in Minneapolis, ended a lesson late last week by taking a handful of students — as young as 11 — to Smitten Kitten, an adult novelty store nearby. The idea angered some parents who were concerned that their children were able to see sex toys and buy condoms. But, Hedges told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the purpose was to give the students a safe space to talk about sex.
The store has educational workshops — and the students went to one.
“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 told the Star Tribune.
“There is no right age for all kids,” she added. “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.”
Gaia Democratic School is an independent, private school that accepts students from kindergarten through 12th grade.
“We believe in academic freedom, youth empowerment, democratic education, and environmental stewardship,” the school states on its Facebook page.
Since Friday’s field trip, at least one parent pulled his kids from the school. Lynn Floyd told news outlets he learned about it only after his daughters told their mother. “We feel that the bond of trust between parent and educator has been irrevocably damaged,” he wrote in a letter to the school, according to WCCO-TV. He unenrolled his girls, ages 9, 11 and 13, the news station reported.
Minneapolis business license manager Grant Wilson told the Minneapolis Star Tribune an adult novelty shop with sex toys in plain view should not permit minors to come into the store. He said he planned to send an inspector to the shop. By Tuesday, the stop had been cited for code violations because it did not have sexually explicit materials sectioned off, which city code requires.
Wilson told the newspaper the store has been ordered to comply.
The store’s owner, Jennifer Pritchett, said in a statement that she considers her shop an educational resource, according to WCCO-TV. “We leave it up to the discretion of parents and guardians as to when, and in what capacity, they seek resources from our educators,” the statement said.
Hedges has not admitted a mistake in taking the students there but said she should have communicated properly with parents, according to Minnesota Public Radio.
“It was certainly the first time we have taken that kind of field trip and it will probably be our last, which I feel bad [about] because the kids had so much fun,” she said.