Nine seventh grade students at a San Diego-based middle school were suspended last month after watching pornographic videos as part of a so-called "gay test," according to reports.
According to U-T San Diego News, students in all-boys English class at Bell Middle School in Paradise Hills allegedly wore gym shorts as they watched videos on their cell phones. Whoever became sexually aroused while watching the videos was labeled gay, and several adolescents masturbated openly during the class.
In addition, peers complained of inaction by teacher Ed Johnson, who is now reportedly under fire because he did not respond to students who told him about the behavior while it was allegedly happening, according to NBC San Diego.
Among those to condemn the news was Patiti Boman of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, who called the incident "terrible," even though Bell Middle School officials have yet to confirm many details.
"I was thinking we were getting better and that’s why we go out and speak in schools. This is news to me and this gives me chills,” Boman, part of the team which helped craft the district’s anti-harassment policy, told U-T San Diego news. "They use that to attack and intimidate."
Last month, U-T San Diego News reported that school officials and area lawmakers have called the matter a personnel issue and declined additional comment, citing student privacy laws.
"We cannot tell you the reasons for the suspensions, or whether further action is being taken with respect to any particular suspension," Andra Donovan, deputy general counsel for the district, said in an email as quoted by NBC San Diego. "With respect to Mr. Johnson, all we can tell you is that he is employed by the District and remains assigned to Bell Middle School as of [May 25]. His schedule has not changed."
Still, Dick Thornburgh, a former U.S. attorney general and author of a 2002 study on how to protect youth from Internet pornography, told the Associated Press that he believes the case illustrates a growing problem.
"The images are perishable, so if a teacher is concerned about someone using a cell phone to look at pornographic images, all you've got to do is press a button and it's gone," he said. "So it poses all kind of challenges."
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