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Threats, attacks shut down library event for children in Birmingham

An event designed to teach children about consent and bodily autonomy was rescheduled after complaints, threats.

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The Alabama Campaign for Adolescent Sexual Health was forced to reschedule an event for children at a Birmingham library on Saturday after the library received numerous calls “personally attacking and threatening” staff members and promising to disrupt the event. 

Christina Clark Okarmus, the executive director for the Campaign, said in a press release that the event, which was designed as a way for “families to learn about consent and bodily autonomy in a fun and age-appropriate way,” was attacked for being “inappropriate for children.” The event, which was to be held at the Springville Road Public Library, included a story hour featuring children’s books teaching lessons on when it is and isn’t appropriate to touch and be touched, a gender-creative fashion show where children could try on different clothes, and a coloring station. 

“We planned this event for Sex Ed for All Month as a way to involve parents and to make sex education less scary and more fun,” Okarmus said. “Research shows that children who are equipped with the proper names for their anatomy, as well as the skills to refuse unwanted touching, are less likely to become victims of sexual abuse. Abuse prevention was the primary focus of the event.” 

But the fliers for the event, which were displayed at the library and at other locations around town, drew the attention of an unidentified conservative group and an orchestrated campaign ensued. Okarmus said it wasn’t clear exactly what had drawn the ire of the group. 

She said many of the callers and emailers to the library claimed that the event would “teach about homosexuality.” That was not the case. The event, according to the press release from the Campaign for Adolescent Sexual Health, followed national guidelines for K-2 children set by the National Sex Education Standards. 

Despite the threats, the Campaign said the event will be rescheduled and proper safety protocols put in place.

“We partnered with many organizations to bring parents and kids age-appropriate information and resources,” said Alabama Campaign outreach coordinator Meagan Lyle. “This event has received overwhelming support from people across the state, including school nurses, educators, childcare groups, and parents. We are in the process of developing a strong safety plan for this event when it happens later this summer. We will not let misinformation and hate deter us from our mission to support young people in making informed and healthy decisions for their own bodies and lives.”

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This is not the Campaign’s first brush with undeserved negative attention. Back in September, it came under fire for an animated short video used by one of its dozens of partners. The video, which was designed as a resource tool for parents to use to help teach kids about the dangers of pornography, included nude cartoon characters. 

But the Campaign hasn’t stopped its mission to bring better sex education to a state with one of the highest teen pregnancy rates and highest sexually transmitted disease rates in the country.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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