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Sex ed teacher who resigned remains a lightning rod

A controversial sex education instructor who resigned from her position after an uproar from some parents over her teaching methods and subject matter defended her class to the New York Times.

“I equip them (students) with a way that they can exercise body agency and consent, by knowing exactly what those (body) parts are, what they are called, and how to take care of them,” Justine Fonte, a Manhattan teacher and daughter of Filipino immigrants, said.

The Times article pointed out that Fonte’s class at the Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School followed guidelines for children ages 5-8 set by the World Health Organization. Numerous sex education instructors stated there saw nothing inappropriate about Fonte’s classes.

“First graders need to be taught that other people don’t have a right to touch their bodies,” Jennifer S. Hirsch, a health educator, said. “And just as importantly, they don’t have a right to touch other people’s bodies. How many politicians have we seen in the news who never got that lesson?”

Among the topics in Fonte’s classes for older children is porn literacy which is designed to teach kids how to critically look at what they see on the screen. Surveys have found first exposure to porn happens for boys under 14 and girls under 18.

Just hours after the Times published its story, Fox News countered with its own story and headline: “NY Times blasted for defending ‘pornography literacy’ for first graders: ‘These people are sick'”

“Porn is not ‘sex-positive,’” said pro-life activist Lila Rose to Fox. “That’s like saying rat poison is a vitamin. Porn is dehumanizing to everyone involved & damaging to healthy sexuality. Also—instructing 5 year olds about masturbation is sexual abuse & any adult involved should be criminally charged.”

According to the New York Post, Fonte has decided to work as an independent health educator. Her website outlines her teaching philosophy and journey as a teacher.

“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,” she said to the NY Times.. “And I did. But they weren’t ready to back it up, and it cost me my safety.”

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