Parents denounce ‘pornographic’ assignment at Billings school meeting

Posted at 9:34 AM, Apr 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-17 11:34:56-04

BILLINGS – Parents told Billings school board members Monday night they are infuriated by an assignment in a psychology class at the Career Center that some deemed ‘pornographic.’

In March, parents protested students being required to look at a gender study in advertisements with the website The Gender Ad Project.

The website, created in 2002 and offered as an educational resource, depicts thousands of images used in for the purpose of advertising. It "focuses on the ways in which gender (and related issues like sexuality, social class, race, etc.) and advertising intersect."

Matthew Lurker and his wife spoke with the Board of Trustees in March, and he said Monday and said he has received "attacks and harassment" since speaking about the issue.

Lurker says he spoke with Montana Superintendent for Public Instruction’s Elsie Artzen’s office and claims she "felt the issue is a criminal matter and has forwarded the information to the United States Attorney General’s Office and the United States Marshall’s Office for further investigation."

Q2 News has reached out to Artzen’s office for comment.

"I’m here to tell you tonight how serious a matter this is and will become for you the school district," Lurker warned. "We’re dealing with an issue that may qualify as criminal, sexual (abuse) of minor children under Montana and federal law."

"As you continue to ignore the issue, we the parents will continue to bring public attention to it until corrective action is taken to prevent further violation and the teacher in question is removed from the classroom."

Spencer Lurker, who was in the class, said the teacher told the class many would feel uncomfortable about the gender portion of the class. 

"Since this started, my teacher has never apologized to our class," he said. "She never admitted what she was doing was wrong. Nothing has changed in the classroom. Since this is a high school class and not a college class, this is not the place to be pushing this kind of stuff."

Other parents agreed with the Lurkers on the issue while others spoke in favor of the teacher’s lesson and why it is important to teach students.

"We live in a really dangerous country for women," said Kylie Lammers, parent of two daughters in the district. "Not only do we not have equal rights, because we don’t have equal pay, one in three women are victims of violence by intimate partner, one in four women are severely physically abused by a partner, one in seven have been stalked. We have a problem of violence against women in this country and I for one am very grateful for this teacher… she is really trying to teach students to be literate about media advertising and understand what they are teaching them." 

School District 2 officials who reviewed the lesson found it to be outstanding and well planned but said the website used was inappropriate.

Superintendent Terry Bouck said he dealt with the personnel issue and met with the district’s legal team to review the situation. At the meeting, Bouck backed the teacher’s ability in the classroom.

"She is a quality teacher," Bouck said. "I’m going to say that, she is a quality teacher who made a big mistake in my eyes as superintendent."

Several others also spoke in support of the teacher.

The district met with the Lurkers in March and spent two hours to discuss the situation.

The website was labeled poltical by the district’s internet filter, not pornographic.

It has now been banned and the district plans to upgrade its filter that screens material by age of student.