Parents upset after teacher takes students to sex toy shop for field trip

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An adult novelty store called the Smitten Kitten was the destination for a recent field trip by some Minneapolis students, and parents of some of those children are none too happy about it.

A teacher at the Gaia Democratic School, a small private school in Minneapolis, took about a dozen middle school and high school students to the adult novelty store late last week to cap off a sex education course they've been taking for several months, the Star Tribune reports.

The teacher, Starri Hedges, is also director of the school. She said the field trip was meant to provide a safe environment for students to learn about sex "without any shame, without any fear,” she told the Star Tribune.

Smitten Kitten calls itself a “progressive sex toy store for everyone.” Besides selling toys, DVDs, books and other products, it also conducts workshops run by sex educators, such as the one the students attended.

Some parents who spoke to the newspaper say they're upset they weren't notified of the field trip ahead of time. One father, whose two daughters went on the outing, called it a "major breach of trust," and he pulled his daughters out of the school.

The owner of Smitten Kitten, Jennifer Pritchett, emailed this statement in response to the controversy.

"Smitten Kitten is an educational resource about sex and sexuality for our community. We leave it up to the discretion of parents and guardians as to when, if, and in what capacity they seek resources from our educators. We trust that parents and guardians make responsible and well considered decisions about the information and sexual values they share with their young adults. Smitten Kitten is a resource for sound, science-based sex-ed information for parents, teachers, and community members who want assistance as they develop the sexuality curriculum that is right for them."

(Pritchett opened her store in 2003 and was profiled in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal in 2011.)

Hedges said the students sat in the front of the store in its library section, and some sex toys were visible to them. But anything considered pornographic was out of sight, the Star Tribune reports.

Hedges acknowledged she didn't communicate very well with parents about the plan, adding it was the first, and likely last, time the school would take that kind of field trip, according to USA Today.

In the wake of the publicity over the controversy, city inspectors visited the store Tuesday and cited it for several violations of city code, the Associated Press reports.

Those codes define where sexually explicit materials may be displayed and say they must be in a separate section of the store so they aren't within view of minors, the Star Tribune notes.

Minneapolis city attorney Susan Segal said the store can reconfigure its space or cover the items to comply with the rules, according to the Associated Press.

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