Barber: Reinstatement of Roy High Teacher is Unacceptable

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Barber: Reinstatement of Roy High Teacher is Unacceptable

By Shaelyn Barber

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A questionnaire asking about teens’ personal drug use, alcohol use and sexual activity was recently distributed as part of a graded assignment for an “Adult Roles” class at Roy High School taught by Candace Thurgood. Each question was given a point value indicating the impurity of the given act. These points were added up at the end to indicate where one would lie on a scale ranging from “A nerd: just where you should be at your age” to “hopeless and condemned.” Points were given for experimentation with the same sex, unprotected intercourse and even to students who had been victims of sexual assault.

After a brief suspension Thurgood has been reinstated in her teaching position, with nothing more than a slap on the wrist and a promise from the school that the survey would not be used again. This is unacceptable.

Tests and ratings like this are inherently damaging to the mental and emotional well-being of students. High school is a vulnerable time for a lot of teens. They need a place to explore and to develop a sense of identity, to discover who they are and who they want to be.

A teacher is a person who is often looked up to by high schoolers, they are an adult that is supposed to provide support and be a positive role model. If a high school teacher is using their position of power to force their own personal ethical codes upon their students, that is a gross abuse of power. If a teacher tells a student that natural things like sex drive or sexual orientation are morally repugnant, this can develop a deep-rooted sense of guilt in students that is difficult to overcome.

This is an especially large problem within the state of Utah. Health classes give poor knowledge of how to safely engage in sexual activity and instead shame young people for their urges. Sexual and romantic relationships between LGBTQ+ youth are ignored all together. Rape culture is thriving as students are given lessons which include popular anecdotes such as the “chewing gum” analogy, in which a piece of gum becomes less and less desirable the more times it is chewed, thus symbolizing the “fading worth” of youth as they engage in more sexual activity, especially girls.

While Roy High and Weber School District have promised to remove the test in question from their curriculum, the problem is much more heavily ingrained. It lies in the incorporation of subjective morals into classroom settings, the use of fear instead of education about health and safety and the idea that each person should have the same perspective on what is good and what is bad. High schools need to do a better job to recognize the diversity of students and their backgrounds, and to put an end to shaming tactics.

The removal of the quiz is a simple Band-Aid over the real problem. By reinstating Thurgood and permitting other teachers to utilize similar teaching methods and ideology, the school system continues to allow harmful rhetoric into classrooms that will leave a lasting negative impact on students.