Another high school hero.

George Washington High School in West Virginia is, I assume, burdened with the same charge of all other public schools: teach children factually correct information.  And by virtue of teaching some facts, you must necessarily teach that some other claims are not true.  If George Washington was the first President, then it wasn’t Genghis Kahn.  If evolution is true, then all animals were not made as they are at a single point in time.  The list goes on and on.

Some people don’t get that, and think we should teach competing ideas, even if they are unsupported by the facts (and even if they are in direct conflict with the facts) because appeasing ill-informed people is more important than educating children.  The principal at GWHS, George Aulenbacher, is apparently in the latter category.

George Washington High School recently hosted a conservative speaker, Pam Stenzel, who travels around the country to advocate an abstinence-only approach to teen sexuality. Stenzel has a long history of using inflammatory rhetoric to convince young people that they will face dire consequences for becoming sexually active. At GW’s assembly, Stenzel allegedly told students that “if you take birth control, your mother probably hates you” and “I could look at any one of you in the eyes right now and tell if you’re going to be promiscuous.” She also asserted that condoms aren’t safe, and every instance of sexual contact will lead to a sexually transmitted infection.

None of that is factually true.  Once a person like that is given the spot at a podium by a school, education has ceased to be their business.  Thankfully, a student at the school, Katelyn Campbell, understands what education means, even if the people calling themselves educators don’t.

Campbell refused to attend the assembly, which was funded by a conservative religious organization called “Believe in West Virginia” and advertised with fliers that proclaimed “God’s plan for sexual purity.” Instead, she filed a complaint with the ACLU and began to speak out about her objections to this type of school-sponsored event. Campbell called Stenzel’s presentation “slut shaming” and said that it made many students uncomfortable.

This did not sit very well with Aulenbacher:

But it didn’t end with a simple difference of opinion among Campbell and her principal. The high school senior alleges that Aulenbacher threatened to call Wellesley College, where Campbell has been accepted to study in the fall, after she spoke to the press about her objections to the assembly. According to Campbell, her principal said, “How would you feel if I called your college and told them what bad character you have and what a backstabber you are?” Campbell alleges that Aulenbacher continued to berate her in his office, eventually driving her to tears. “He threatened me and my future in order to put forth his own personal agenda and make teachers and students feel they cant speak up because of fear of retaliation,” she said of the incident.

Oh hell no.

First, read up on the history of Wellesley College and good luck besmirching the character of a young woman standing up for women’s reproductive rights.  Here, the college will help you via their twitter:

 

So yeah, how’s that working out for you?

Despite being threatened, Campbell is not backing down. She hopes that filing this injunction will protect her freedom of speech to continue advocating for comprehensive sexual health resources for West Virginia’s youth. “West Virginia has the ninth highest pregnancy rate in the U.S.,” Campbell told the Gazette. “I should be able to be informed in my school what birth control is and how I can get it. With the policy at GW, under George Aulenbacher, information about birth control and sex education has been suppressed. Our nurse wasn’t allowed to talk about where you can get birth control for free in the city of Charleston.”

George Aulenbacher needs to be fired before he can hand over a heaping pile of his district’s money to the ACLU.  Perhaps he can find a job suited to people who lie about sex and other facts.  I’d suggest being a preacher, but church attendance across America is waning and seeking a job in a declining industry is just not smart.

Never mind, Aulenbacher’s a perfect candidate.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Jeff

    “Backstabber.” The principal thinks he was betrayed. He thinks he was owed something. He thinks that the students he’s responsible for need to swear (or have sworn) an oath of fealty to him.

  • Glodson

    Nothing like shoving backwards bronze age bullshit down the throats of a captive audience. Good for this young woman. I hope more young people speak out. Maybe as more do, other teens and younger kids will see this. And they’ll realize they aren’t alone. And maybe the ideological bullies who think they can threaten in order to protect their role in illegally forcing religion down the throats of others will start to think twice if they get called out more on this.

  • http://www.andrewturnbull.net/ Andrew T.

    I lived in West Virginia for the first 22 years of my life. I ran into more than a few characters like Stenzel and Aulenbacher in and outside of school, and the amount of creationism, Christian supremacism, and toxic attitudes towards sexuality I dealt with on a daily basis is more than enough to make me cringe. My own high school was afflicted by the “Project Yes” sex non-education directive, which to avoid offending religious sensibilities amounted to absolutely and literally nothing at all.

    I remain interested in the things that go on down there, and to have a character as strong, assertive, and well-principled as Katelyn take a vocal stand warms my heart. I wish I could have been brave enough as her when I was in her shoes!

  • Sasha

    Aulenbacher’s an ass. After one year of teaching under him I swore I would go back to substituting before teaching for him again. Luckily – I found a principal who appreciated hard workers and moved my classroom less than a week after school was out for the summer!

  • Andrew Kohler

    I agree that the “backstabbing” comment is very alarming given that the students of this twerp’s school have no obligation to agree with his choice of assembly speakers.

    From Andrew T’s comment: “Project Yes”–shouldn’t an abstinence-type project be called “Project No” ? Logic doesn’t figure in much to these things. I have no experience, thankfully, which such non-education programs, but “absolutely and literally nothing at all” is certainly consistent with my impression. And there is a group called “Believe in West Virginia” !? Shouldn’t the purpose of that group be either to convince people of the existence of West Virginia (for which the evidence seems to be quite sound) or, in the less literal sense of the word, to have confidence in the goodness of the state, even when some high school principals threaten to ruin its credibility?

    From Pam Stenzel (whose website, linked above, reveals she has a degree in psychology from Liberty [alleged] University): “I could look at any one of you in the eyes right now and tell if you’re going to be promiscuous.”

    One wonders: has anyone followed up to see how accurately she is able to ascertain this in actuality? Maybe she does so by seeing who is looking at her with seething contempt. Perhaps she is unaware that one doesn’t have to be promiscuous to find her message extremely offensive, destructive, and inane.

    “She also asserted that condoms aren’t safe, and every instance of sexual contact will lead to a sexually transmitted infection.”

    EVERY instance of sexual contact!? Presumably she thinks that this ceases to be the case within marriage. Isn’t it amazing that marriage has the magical property to protect against transmission of viruses?

    “Pam believes in young people’s ability and willingness to make good choices, if given appropriate information, and are really challenged to save sex for marriage.” From Dan Ziedler, president of Family Life Council, Inc. [that's got to be a winner of an organization!], quoted on Pam Stenzel’s webpage

    I love teaching people how to make good choices; I just don’t think that good choices about sex and relationships will look the same for everyone, because these are very personal and individual choices. And “really challenged to save sex for marriage” makes me think of people saying they, say, “math challenged” or “technologically challenged” or whatever the case may be, i.e. they have trouble with these things. I suppose this dude is saying that these young people are up for what he knows to be a challenge (I thought they usually don’t admit that?), but his wording leaves something to be desired.

    Lastly, Pam Stenzel has some movie called “Sex Has a Price Tag,” which exists in an updated version as well, apparently. Is she intentionally invoking the idea of prostitution, one wonders? Or, is she unaware that her audience is living in a capitalist world in which price tags are a part of life and therefore a nuisance but really not all that terrifying? Or is she just saying that, while we think human relationships are one of the few things that don’t have a monetary price attached, they really aren’t free? I suppose she’s right on the last point, because relationships of any kind involve investment and often varying degrees of sacrifice, and it’s pretty awful to act as though we have no obligations to others (such as not being highly unpleasant, deceptive, and nasty like Pam Stenzel), but I somehow doubt this is really her point. Sex education should indeed highlight that sex has consequences (because all actions have consequences, which can be good, bad, or neutral), but to do so in an authoritarian, aggressive, and degrading way is highly counterproductive. Keep this person and those who promote her away from schools!

  • Andrew Kohler

    I agree that the “backstabbing” comment is very alarming given that the students of this twerp’s school have no obligation to agree with his choice of assembly speakers.

    From Andrew T’s comment: “Project Yes”–shouldn’t an abstinence-type project be called “Project No” ? Logic doesn’t figure in much to these things. I have no experience, thankfully, which such non-education programs, but “absolutely and literally nothing at all” is certainly consistent with my impression. And there is a group called “Believe in West Virginia” !? Shouldn’t the purpose of that group be either to convince people of the existence of West Virginia (for which the evidence seems to be quite sound) or, in the less literal sense of the word, to have confidence in the goodness of the state, even when some high school principals threaten to ruin its credibility?

    From Pam Stenzel (whose website, linked above, reveals she has a degree in psychology from Liberty [alleged] University): “I could look at any one of you in the eyes right now and tell if you’re going to be promiscuous.”

    One wonders: has anyone followed up to see how accurately she is able to ascertain this in actuality? Maybe she does so by seeing who is looking at her with seething contempt. Perhaps she is unaware that one doesn’t have to be promiscuous to find her message extremely offensive, destructive, and inane.

    “She also asserted that condoms aren’t safe, and every instance of sexual contact will lead to a sexually transmitted infection.”

    EVERY instance of sexual contact!? Presumably she thinks that this ceases to be the case within marriage. Isn’t it amazing that marriage has the magical property to protect against transmission of viruses?

    “Pam believes in young people’s ability and willingness to make good choices, if given appropriate information, and are really challenged to save sex for marriage.” From Dan Ziedler, president of Family Life Council, Inc. [that's got to be a winner of an organization!], quoted on Pam Stenzel’s webpage

    I love teaching people how to make good choices; I just don’t think that good choices about sex and relationships will look the same for everyone, because these are very personal and individual choices. And “really challenged to save sex for marriage” makes me think of people saying they, say, “math challenged” or “technologically challenged” or whatever the case may be, i.e. they have trouble with these things. I suppose this dude is saying that these young people are up for what he knows to be a challenge (I thought they usually don’t admit that?), but his wording leaves something to be desired.

    Lastly, Pam Stenzel has some movie called “Sex Has a Price Tag,” which exists in an updated version as well, apparently. Is she intentionally invoking the idea of prostitution, one wonders? Or, is she unaware that her audience is living in a capitalist world in which price tags are a part of life and therefore a nuisance but really not all that terrifying? Or is she just saying that, while we think human relationships are one of the few things that don’t have a monetary price attached, they really aren’t free? I suppose she’s right on the last point, because relationships of any kind involve investment and often varying degrees of sacrifice, and it’s pretty awful to act as though we have no obligations to others (such as not being highly unpleasant, deceptive, and nasty like Pam Stenzel), but I somehow doubt this is really her point. Sex education should indeed highlight that sex has consequences (because all actions have consequences, which can be good, bad, or neutral), but to do so in an authoritarian, aggressive, and degrading way is highly counterproductive. Keep this person and those who promote her away from schools!

    A real gem from her website:

    http://shoppamstenzel.com/p-66-except-in-cases-of-rape-12-stories-of-survival.aspx

    She also has both faith-based and public school versions of some of her videos. Why am I dubious that they’re actually different, beyond changing the wording to create plausible deniability?

    • Andrew Kohler

      DAMN IT! I thought the first comment hadn’t really posted because I got a server timeout message x-( Sorry about the double post (although they’re not quite identical, as I found another serious offense to report on her website after the timeout message).


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