Parents were left “disgusted” after a Connecticut school showed second-graders a cartoon of a man with an erection during a “lesson on social and emotional learning.” After angering parents with the graphic animation, the superintendent responded.
Greenwich Schools Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones was forced to address a controversial video that second-graders in Greenwich, Connecticut were shown during “a lesson on social and emotional learning,” according to the Greenwich Free Press. The cartoon, titled “Alfred Jr. & Shadow: A Short Story About Being Scared,” included animation that some parents found entirely too graphic for children.
“All children are normalscared, but what do children who are embarrassedscared or painfulscared need?” the description of the animated video asks. The short story, which is an educational film intended for children aged 6-14 years, teaches children about different ways of being scared, what they need when they are scared, and suggestions for actions. It also gives adults tips on how to meet a child who is scared.
The nearly 10-minute film features two cartoon owls talking about traumatic experiences for children, including “stuff that’s very difficult to talk about,” according to The Washington Examiner. While that might sound all well and good, some of the imagery was not, according to some parents who were left “disgusted.”
In the cartoon footage, kids are shown the silhouette of a man with a graphic, fully erect penis as he stood over what has been described as a “sad” girl, The Blaze reported. That image remains on the screen for roughly nine seconds before cutting to other potential terrifying scenarios, according to the NY Post.
“Some children are afraid that their mom and dad will beat them, or that their parents will fight,” a voice narrating the video says. “Other children have experienced an adult touching or putting their penis in the child’s private parts or mouth” and are “terrified that this will happen again,” the voiceover adds as the controversial image is displayed on the screen for several seconds.
Described by The Washington Examiner as “a sexually aroused silhouetted man standing over a dejected-looking child,” the graphic image didn’t sit well with Greenwich parent and Newsmax host Carl Higbie. “In my hometown, in my daughters [sic] age group class of second grade, they showed an animated video today of a man with an ERECTION standing over a child!!!!! this is not OK!!!!” Higbie tweeted.
Although Higbie said he was “relieved” that his own second-grader did not see the film, he added that several other “disgusted” parents had reached out to him to express their outrage. “That somebody thought this video was acceptable for second graders was abhorrent,” he said, and Greenwich Schools Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones seemed to agree, admitting it was “not appropriate.”
“Around the midway point in the video there is [a] reference to situations in which children may become afraid, including being afraid of abuse, both physical and sexual,” Dr. Toni Jones wrote in an email to second-grade families, addressing the controversial video. She went on to acknowledge that “the content at this point in the video was not appropriate for our GPS second grade classrooms” and said it was “likely meant for a private therapy session for children who have experienced trauma.”
Due to the nature of the video, Dr. Jones said that the district notified the Dept of Children and Families (DCF), which they do whenever they believe students may have been exposed to material or situations that may warrant a follow-up. She also said that the district’s psychology staff would answer any questions parents may have, including how to discuss the video with their child. In addition, staff would offer a student session for parents who would like more support as she apologized for any questions or concerns this may have raised for children.
While it is understandable that children need to be educated on the real danger of sexual abuse, many do not feel that an image of an erect penis — cartoon or otherwise — is necessary to achieve that goal, especially when it comes to 7- or 8-year-old children. After all, if a child showed a similar image to a peer, they’d likely face disciplinary action. Obviously, the educator responsible either thought this was “okay” or “didn’t care enough to review this before playing it,” as Higbie pointed out. Neither of which provides much reassurance for upset parents.