Parents have blasted the New York Times magazine after the popular tabloid publicized Justine Ang Fonte, a New York teacher who recently became infamous for her sexual education curriculum lessons for children called “pornography literacy.”
For seven years, Fonte was the director of health and wellness at the Dalton School on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York.
In May this year, she was invited to teach two Zoom lessons on “pornography literacy and consent” to juniors and seniors at the Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School in New York.
Those lessons reportedly included some “masturbation” images, outraging parents and eventually leading to her resignation.
The Zoom lessons never used the term “masturbation,” according to Fonte. Instead, Safronova notes, “The lesson was about private parts being private and included a cartoon in which two characters use anatomically correct names for their genitals and say that sometimes it feels good to touch them. ‘It’s OK to touch yourself and see how different body parts feel, but it’s best to only do it in private,’ the narrator tells viewers.”
Fonte received backlash for her lessons, however, the New York Times in a post on Thursday, July 8, had a different viewpoint on the controversy and appeared to provide Fonte some backup.
“Pornography literacy classes are supposed to teach students how to critically assess what they see on the screen,” the Times tweeted, with a link to its report from Style reporter Valeriya Safronova.
“But when a sex-positive educator taught her curriculum at two elite New York City schools recently, some parents were outraged.”
The New York Times acknowledged that Fonte has received backlash for her lessons, but noted “multiple sex educators interviewed for this article said there was nothing inappropriate about her classes,” and that her methods appeared to be in line with the National Sex Education Standards and CDC guidelines.
“Pornography literacy,” Safronova, argues, teaches kids “how to recognize what is realistic and what is not, how to deconstruct implicit gender roles, and how to identify what types of behavior could be a health or safety risk.”
After the post by the NY Times, parents condemned the tabloid for pushing what they believed to be a ‘premature and dangerous’ message to children.
“Porn is not ‘sex-positive,’” said Lila Rose. “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.”
Rose said that Fonte or the Times should face consequences for this type of messaging.
“Let’s add the New York Times to the list of periodicals that promote sexuality to children. No way are kids supposed to learn about masturbation in the first grade,” tweeted Barrington Martin II, a former congressional candidate in Georgia.
“These people are sick and need to be institutionalized or incarcerated.”
“Aren’t people who try to teach porn to kids also sex criminals?” asked another parent Dan Gainor.
Many more questioned the Times’ for their support of the teacher
After her resignation from the school, the school announced it had no ill will toward her.
“Throughout her tenure at Dalton, Justine Ang Fonte has helped to develop an exemplary K-12 Health and Wellness program. Dalton — our faculty, staff, administration, and trustees — continue to stand firmly behind this program and those who teach it,” Dalton’s head of school, Jim Best, who also won’t be returning, said in a statement.