CHICAGO, April 19, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Outraged parents are seeking a temporary restraining order against their Chicago high school to block a planned talk to students by a sex columnist who promotes casual sex and porn use.
Whitney M. Young Magnet High School principal Joyce Kenner postponed a sex education program scheduled for Tuesday, April 17, after Sally Wagenmaker, parent of a student at the Chicago public high school, notified the administrator of her intent to take legal action.
Kenner was informed of a temporary restraining order and an emergency request for injunctive relief being filed against the school in Cook County Circuit Court. Wagenmaker, along with her husband Dan and other concerned Whitney Young parents, filed suit when both Kenner and assistant principal Lynn Zalon rejected requests for information regarding the 7th through 12th grade school’s decision to use sex columnist and dancer Nicolette Pawlowski for its sexual education programming.
The administration had been contacted because of parental objection to what Wagenmaker described as Pawlowski’s “deeply troubling and extensive online articles advocating casual hook-up sex, pornography use, and other risky sex behaviors.”
Wagenmaker, a Chicago attorney serving as Special Counsel with the national public interest law firm, the Thomas More Society, appeared in court with the pro bono legal organization’s Vice President and Senior Counsel Tom Olp.
As a parent and a lawyer, Wagenmaker has raised serious questions regarding Pawlowski’s credentials, suitability to teach, and lack of proper approval to provide sex education at the school. She described Kenner and Zalon’s actions on behalf of the Whitney Young administration as “illegal, contrary to Chicago Public School policy, and otherwise reflecting poor judgment against the best interests of Whitney Young students.”
In addition to the lack of proper parental notification, a presentation to 7th and 8th graders at Whitney Young on April 10 provoked concern from student families. Pawlowski’s web site lists her top credential as the CEO of Apassionato Co., where she designs and facilitates programs that, among other sex subjects, focus on “kink.” She also lists her job as sex columnist at The Badger Herald Newspaper, where her now defunct column, titled Hump Day, featured sex advice articles, including “Playing it safe: Why hooking up safely with others is normal” and “Like a virgin: How to ‘ease’ in to first time.” A former position at Sex Out Loud boasted her programs about pleasure for adolescent youth; and Pawlowski states that her goal with her students includes fostering “independent investigation” into these subjects.
Chief among the concerns in the complaint is Whitney Young’s “last-minute, brief notification of sexual education workshops.” The first and only notice of the programming came via email the evening of Sunday, April 8, about presentations beginning less than 48 hours later, on the morning of Tuesday, April 10. No details on the subject matter were provided, other than the names of the presenter and her presentations. Additionally, no opportunity was given for parents or guardians to opt their students out of the briefly published agenda.
The complaint states that the “lack of responsiveness to several parents’ expressed concerns was in clear contravention of the law applicable to Whitney Young as an Illinois public school,” and in violation of parents’ rights. The filing details multiple violations of the Illinois School Code, the Illinois Critical Health Problems and Comprehensive Health Education Act, the Chicago Public Schools Policy Manual “Sexual Health Education,” and the Chicago Public Schools’ “Sexual Health Education Toolkit.”
Wagenmaker noted that applicable Illinois law and Chicago Public Schools policy reflect a strong emphasis on abstinence and avoidance of risky sexual behaviors, such as those advocated by Pawlowski.
“Such instruction is mandated to comply with the National Sexuality Education Standards, which emphasizes the importance of parental involvement and avoidance of health-risk behaviors through abstinence and other measures,” Wagenmaker explained. “Those standards state that schools clearly have as vested an interest in keeping students healthy as do parents and other community members.”
She also referenced the Center for Disease Control’s repeated conclusions that student health behaviors and good grades are related, and reports that “…students who do not engage in health-risk behaviors receive higher grades than their classmates who do engage in health-risk behaviors.”
She added their conclusion that, “Sexuality education standards specifically should accomplish the following: Focus on health promotion, including both abstinence from and risk reduction pertaining to unsafe sexual behaviors.”
The late afternoon hearing on Wednesday, April 18, before Judge Anna Demacopoulos, at Chicago’s downtown Richard J. Daley Center, drew two lawyers for Chicago Public Schools. Wagenmaker and attorneys from her own legal staff, along with Thomas More Society Vice President and Senior Counsel Tom Olp, represented the group of Whitney Young parents. Because the April 17 sex ed program at the school was cancelled, Wagenmaker agreed to withdraw the emergency motion but will continue with the lawsuit considering the school’s refusal to admit any wrongdoing.
The parents and their attorneys have consented to continued dialogue with the Chicago Public Schools attorneys to ensure Whitney Young’s compliance with applicable law and published policy. Wagenmaker declared, “The seemingly promiscuous program was cancelled, the problems are being addressed in and out of court – I’m counting this as a victory for Chicago public school parents and their children.”
Wagenmaker noted that Whitney Young is reportedly one of the most diverse schools in the United States, with many different cultures, religions, and world views represented through its student body and their parents. She remarked that Illinois law and Chicago Public Schools policy “inherently respects such diversity by providing for parental notification, involvement, and respectful deference” and that Whitney Young “should serve as the vanguard for such practices” and “not be a shameful exception.”
Read the Thomas More Society’s Emergency Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, in Wagenmaker et al (parents) v. Kenner et al. (Whitney Young administrators), filed April 16, 2018, with the Chancery Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois County Department, here.