The Alabama Campaign for Adolescent Sexual Health is saddened to announce that the Consent for Kids Fair planned for Saturday, May 20, at the Springville Road Public Library in Birmingham will be postponed out of an abundance of caution to ensure safety for all involved. On the morning of May 18, Alabama Campaign and library staff received emails asking for the cancellation of the event, claiming it was “inappropriate for children and adults.” These emails were followed by numerous phone calls personally attacking and threatening library staff. Callers also implied that the event would be disrupted. This event has been postponed but will still happen this summer once there are systems in place to ensure no one is harassed or otherwise harmed.
The activities planned for the Consent for Kids Fair include a consent story hour, featuring children’s books such as “Will Ladybug Hug?”, “Can I Give You a Squish?”, and “Don’t Hug Doug (He Doesn’t Like It)”; pin the ovary on the uterus; coloring station; and gender creative fashion show, in which children can try on different clothes to explore self-expression. The event is also meant to give parents resources on how to have discussions with their kids about consent, body safety, and relationships.
“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,” said executive director of the Alabama Campaign, Christina Clark Okarmus. “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.” Some of the same conversations and activities around consent are practiced in public elementary programs in other states and are recommended as age appropriate for K-2 graders in the National Sex Education Standards.
“Yellowhammer Fund is deeply saddened to learn that a family friendly event at our local library is being attacked simply for teaching children about consent and their bodies,” said event partner, Heidi Miller of Yellowhammer Fund. “Alabama consistently fails children in our state when it comes to comprehensive sexual health education and we commend the Alabama Campaign and the other organizations involved for creating an inclusive space that’s meant to be fun, welcoming, and above all safe for everyone. Alabamians of all ages deserve to have bodily autonomy without state or religious interference.”
“We partnered with many organizations to bring parents and kids age-appropriate information and resources. We have decided to postpone this event to ensure that we can keep everyone safe, but we are committed to bringing families and young people inclusive, medically accurate, age-appropriate sexual health education,” 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.”
The Alabama Campaign for Adolescent Sexual Health has been working to advance comprehensive sex education in Alabama for over 20 years. “We have never seen controversy around events that we host at the Alabama Campaign, but the Alabama legislature has recently introduced several anti-LGBTQ bills, and there has been a rise in parental rights extremism, so we don’t think this is a coincidence,” said Clark Okarmus. In 2017 the Alabama Campaign commissioned a survey of parents of school aged children in Alabama. The study, conducted by the University of South Alabama, found that 82.7% of parents believe children should be taught sex education in school, 97.5% believe it’s important that their children learn to talk with a partner about STIs and birth control, and 98.1% believe it’s important that their children learn about condoms. In 2020 Human Rights Watch released a report about sex education in Alabama titled, “It Wasn’t Really Safety, It Was Shame.” One student interviewed for the report said, “I did not recognize how unhealthy [my high school relationship] was because there was no one that was able to discuss that with me, what a healthy relationship and sexual life looks like.”
The results of these studies along with countless conversations with educators, parents, community leaders, and youth show that comprehensive sex education is needed and wanted in Alabama. The Alabama Campaign and its partners will continue to fight for common sense sexual health policies and will continue to organize educational events to make information accessible to the public.