Gaia Democratic School in Minneapolis has 25 students and prides itself on academic freedom, youth empowerment and democratic education.
While the school walks its talk, some of the students’ parents think it has walked one step too far by taking students to an adult novelty store to learn about human sexual behaviour in a “safe environment”.
Besides offering adult books, videos, toys and other products, the store – named Smitten Kitten – also has educational workshops, which the students attended.
One parent, Lynn Floyd, called the field trip, which took place in late May, a “major breach of trust”.
Floyd told the Star Tribune he has since withdrawn both children from the school, adding he is troubled that parents were never notified before the trip.
"I just struggled to think that I wasn't involved in that," Floyd said.
However, the school’s sex education teacher, Starri Hedges, stood by her decision, saying even though she "unfortunately didn't communicate well enough with parents ahead of time" about the trip, it was nonetheless a “beautiful” experience for the kids.
"What I saw happening on our trip, I thought it was beautiful because kids could talk to these sex educators without any shame, without any fear," Hedges said, adding that the children were not exposed to pornographic material.
Smitten Kitten owner, Jennifer Pritchett, said the store is an educational resource about sex and sexuality.
"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," Pritchett said.
Minnesota Department of Education spokesman, Josh Collins, said the state has no authority over the school because it is private.
"I don't think anybody would think that going to the Smitten Kitten is a great idea," Collins said.
Hedges said she probably would not take another class to the store.
"It was certainly the first time we have taken that kind of field trip and it will probably be our last, which I feel bad about because the kids had so much fun," Hedges said.