A Washington state junior high has raised eyebrows for polling their 7th- through 9th-grade students on their sexual orientation as part of a controversial "experiential workshop."
Edgemont Junior High in Edgewood, WA distributed a survey to its students asking their grade level, gender, race and sexual orientation, querying the 12- to 15-year olds whether they "identify as heterosexual/straight, lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, unsure or prefer not to say."
The school distributed the survey while participating in a program on October 5th called Challenge Day. However, Fenuxe reports that Challenge Day spokesperson Ockemia Bean claims that the survey was both outdated and only intended "...for community members. It wasn't something that we included in our actual [Challenge Day] program or that we forwarded to coordinators to pass out to school members."
"The Challenge Day mission is to provide youth and their communities with experiential programs that demonstrate the possibility of love and connection through the celebration of diversity, truth, and full expression," explains the Challenge Day website. The program consists of a six-and-a-half hour day program in which students are given one short bathroom break and a half-hour working lunch break. Students are kept in a secured private room with covered windows and go through a carefully scripted sequence of exercises, some of which include physical contact. One exercise, "Crossing the Line," asks students to publicly "cross a line" to indicate whether they have been teased for their sexuality, been raped or molested, or ever considered suicide.
Dr. Frank Schwerin, writing on cult expert Rick Ross's blog, indicates that the Challenge Day program falls firmly under the header of a Large Group Awareness Training, or LGAT. "The Challenge Day in-school program uses techniques common to mass marathon training companies," Schwerin explains. "Challenge Day... share[s] employees and techniques with the secretive Human Awareness Institute (HAI), a company that specializes in intimacy and sexuality workshops." Schwerin also indicates that the leadership of Challenge Day are strongly affiliated with numerous other LGAT organizations, including Mankind Project, Landmark Education, and est. Schwerin goes on to assert:
"The Challenge Day corporation has a voracious appetite for expansion. The company uses the term 'movement' to describe itself. And the program does not end with the 6-hour in-school workshops. Student participants and the twenty adult volunteers per workshop, are recruited to join the 'Be the Change' movement. In addition, many participants in the program are recruited to attend advanced workshops in California, for a fee. Participants should have no expectation of privacy. That is, something that a student might blurt out after six hours of mind games might end up defining that student for the remainder of his or her time in high school. Our children should not be subjected to this self-described 'daring experiment.' There are safer more proven alternatives, such as anti-bullying and anti-suicide programs, which are available."