A group of students in Baton Rouge, Louisiana thought that they were going to a career fair on Tuesday. Instead, they found that they had been sent to an event described as an anti-LGBT church service.
According to Baton Rouge-based newspaper The Advocate, over 2,100 students from local high schools in the East Baton Rouge Parish school system were told that they were participating in a district-wide 'College & Career Fair.' However, when they arrived at their destination, the students, most of whom were seniors, discovered that they had been dropped off at an event called 'Day of Hope' at the Living Faith Christian Center.
According to reports, many of the students came away from this event feeling traumatized, as the 'Day of Hope' was centered on a number of sexually charged, anti-LGBT issues. This reportedly included separating the kids by male and female, and forcing male and female-transgender students to participate in discussions with the opposite sex. Additionally, one parent said that a number of transgender students were bullied during the event.
“Other students poured water on top of transgender students' heads without any repercussions by any of the adults present,” Brittany Bryant, a mother of a transgender child and high school biology teacher, wrote on Facebook. “They talked about rape (and) forgiving the offender, suicide, prayer leadership, and many more dark controversial topics. We had females in the bathrooms crying due to the topics of discussion."
Bryant also wrote that the 'boy's talk' also involved physical challenges, something the girl's talk did not. “From the beginning no topics were discussed but (they) began male chauvinistic competition for monetary reward for winners,” Bryant wrote. “Then proceeded to compete for push-ups for more money. They were hyped up and egged on.”
Bryant told The Advocate that, while she was afraid of speaking out, she felt that she had to bring the story to light.
Another parent wrote on Facebook, “DAY OF HOPE? More like day of trauma. You prayed over my child, told her that she should remain abstinent, talked to her about suicide, and told her that if she’s being abused in a domestic violence situation that she should forgive her abuser even if he’s not sorry.”
Parents were not the only ones to express their anger on social media, with a number of students doing so as well.
One high schooler, senior Alexis Budyach, wrote on Facebook, “The majority of students chose to attend this field trip on the promise of free food and the opportunity to skip class, however the majority of students were not only disappointed by this event, but traumatized as well."
The East Baton Rouge Parish school system responded to the outrage in a statement Wednesday, saying that "the event was structured to assist students with exploring what options are available after high school, along with allowing students to participate in breakout sessions and student-initiated activities and projects."
"By providing entertaining activities with an educational focus, this event was an elevation of a traditional college and career fair...We look forward to seeing what our over 2,100 student participants will continue to achieve with the resources and knowledge gained from this event."