Sidwell Friends, the Quaker school whose student body includes President Obama’s daughters, Sasha and Malia, got pranked today with a fake e-mail to upper-school parents announcing that the school would henceforth make condoms available in school bathrooms and at dances, sporting events and other school activities. The reason? “Many students have been engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior,” the e-mail read.
It also announced students would have “their choice of contraception” on prom night. It read: “As students board the chartered buses that will transport them from Sidwell Friends to the Four Seasons Hotel, they will each receive a voucher that may be redeemed for their choice of contraception at the conclusion of the Prom and After-Party event.”
Soon after, another e-mail went out addressed to “Upper School Parents.” It said the condom e-mail, while pretending to originate from the school administration, was “a prank and its contents are fiction. It was not authorized by any school personnel.” It was signed by upper-school principal Lee Palmer.
We do not know whether the President and First Lady received the prank e-mail. Malia, the older daughter, is in eighth grade and so not yet officially upper school. It’s fair to assume, though, that word spread fast throughout the Wisconsin Avenue campus and the parent community beyond.
Here’s the prank e-mail in full:
Dear Parents of the Sidwell Friends School Community,
It has recently come to our attention that many students have been engaging in inappropriate activities while on campus. School dances, sporting events, and arts productions have increasingly been catalysts of sexual behavior, a trend deemed imprudent for teenage students of a respectable, Quaker institution. Moreover, we have noticed a large spike in the number of students who take advantage of the privacy of cars and the parking garage to participate in inappropriate sexual activities, especially during the school day.
The administration is greatly alarmed with this new trend. With the influence of today's media - often as morally corrosive as it is entertaining - many Sidwell students believe that it is OK to engage in mature sexual relationships at a young age, and even at school. Therefore, we are taking several steps to make the Sidwell community a safer place:
• Implementation of a two-point penalty for visiting the parking garage during school hours;
• Heightened surveillance and regular patrols by our security personnel in the parking garage and elsewhere on campus during extra-curricular activities;
• Availability of free condoms in all restrooms and distribution of condoms at school dances, sporting events, theatre productions, and other school-sponsored activities.
Furthermore, with the Prom approaching, we find it imperative to ensure that students will have a fun, safe, and responsible Prom experience. This year, we have implemented a policy to discourage students from seeing this event as an opportunity for unsafe and potentially lewd behavior: As students board the chartered buses that will transport them from Sidwell Friends to the Four Seasons Hotel, they will each receive a voucher that may be redeemed for their choice of contraception at the conclusion of the Prom and After-Party event. This option will be provided free of charge.
These safety precautions were chosen after much discussion and eventual consensus between Sidwell students, faculty and parents. Recently, the Faculty Committee on Student Life conducted a survey in which students evaluated their comfort with "grinding," a sexually explicit form of dancing, and other sexual behavior at school dances. Many students anonymously expressed that the pressure to partake in wanton behavior that they encountered at dances detracted from their overall dance experience. Additionally, a committee of randomly selected 12th grade students met this month to discuss their experiences at the 2011 Prom and unanimously agreed that presenting sexual activity as illicit only served to encourage irresponsible behavior on that night. We hope that by removing the stigma from sexual activity, students will approach it not with an attitude of ostentatious rebellion but with the gravity and privacy that this personal decision requires.
We recognize that it may come as a shock to many parents of teens that their children are participating in sexual activity; nonetheless, this is a reality. The consensus reached within the community reflects primarily a certain resignation to teenage sexual activity. We consider it futile to take an outdated "abstinence-only" approach in today's modern world. In light of this, our first priority is the safety of your children, and we must provide an environment in which safe avenues are made available.
We encourage you to take this opportunity to create a healthy environment for an open discussion about safe sex, perhaps by taking advantage of the extensive Planned Parenthood resources around the DC Metropolitan area. Information and condoms will be made readily available in several locations around the Upper School. We suggest that you consider adopting similar policies at home. We realize having this discussion is at the discretion of every parent, yet we advise that you not wait for your child to approach you; sexual activity is an embarrassing subject for most teens, and they should not be counted on to initiate conversations when in need of advice, help, or contraceptives.
Students of all ages and grades may knowingly misrepresent their activities to parents in order to avoid uncomfortable situations and conversations. Just as you should talk to your child about drinking and substance abuse, remember to discuss safe sex. Students often view parties and unsupervised activities following the conclusion of school dances as havens for promiscuity and sexual experimentation. This has already become a problem in the Upper School: News of so-called "hook-ups," a colloquial euphemism for sex, often spreads like wildfire among the student body, tarnishing the reputations of some and polishing the reputations of others. Bringing the topic of sexual activity into the open would diminish gossiping and the use of parties as sexual fairgrounds. Let your children know that the home is the safest place to experiment and deve lop sexually.
The Sidwell administration understands that this is a delicate matter, but we strongly feel that a direct approach is the only reasonable way to handle the situation. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns.
The Sidwell Friends Upper School Administration