In the past week, you may have heard about a news story out of Poughkeepsie, NY discussing how female middle school students were “forced” to ask each other for a “lesbian kiss” in a classroom presentation (please know the “lesbian kiss” is the exact quote being published in all the media sources). We have since been asked, “Was that the ‘Asking First’ scene from the DATE SAFE Project’s ‘Can I Kiss You?‘ presentation?” While we definitely support education on respect of boundaries, the specific presentation mentioned in Red Hook School System was not delivered by The DATE SAFE Project and was not presented by a licensed presenter of The DATE SAFE Project.
Anyone who has seen the “Can I Kiss You?” presentation from The DATE SAFE Project knows the below guidelines are followed. If you are working with students in schools, the below guidelines are very important to follow for conducting role-playing scenes involving dating or decision-making surrounding intimacy:
- The 2 students helping with the “Asking First” role-play are VOLUNTEERS who have chosen to participate in front of their peers in this role-play conversation. No one is forced to be a volunteer. Plus, only two students are chosen for this specific role-play and not the entire class. Since we are focused on teaching consent and choices, we would never want to force a student to be in any situation the student did not choose to be in.
- The 2 students in the scene are given “Character” names which are not gender specific – to ensure the 2 students are representing characters on a date and not themselves. With this approach, a student can “Be” whoever the student wants to be in that moment.
- The schools who bring the “Can I Kiss You?” program from The DATE SAFE Project receive letters to send out to parents and the community providing lots of information on the “Can I Kiss You?” presentation, including links to more information online. We find keeping parents informed in advance helps avoid any potential confusion of what is being shared in the classroom.
We work with all sizes and kinds of schools (from Catholic Middle Schools in rural areas to alternative schools in large cities). The key to having a successful educational effort is communication at all levels – which is one of the main aspects we teach along with respect, bystander intervention, and properly supporting survivors. Letting parents know what is being taught helps curtail any potential confusion.
In all the news coverage of this story, please know it is possible what actually happened in the classroom may be different than what has been reported by a few parents (who heard 2nd hand from their children). Reports say the boys were taught “How to Spot a Slut” – is is possible that what actually happened is they were discussing how people often “label” people with such harmful words?
We are honored to know that when people around the country hear about an “Asking First” scene in a school educational program, they think of The DATE SAFE Project and the work we are doing to help students around the world. When bringing the “Can I Kiss You?” program to your local schools, make sure you are hiring The DATE SAFE Project OR a licensed presenter of the “Can I Kiss You?” program. To become licensed to present the program in your local middle schools and high schools, visit: