Previous | Next

Spring 1989 · Vol. 18 No. 1 · pp. 30–32 

Suggestions for Actions

Response to “Case Study” by Louis B. Weeks 18/1 (1989): 23–26.

Roland Reimer

“Every problem has a complex setting,” while a truism, is certainly an apt description of this case. It is understandable, but regrettable that situations of this nature happen so easily. Several circumstances make this scenario problematic.

. . . an oversight with ethical implications.


Simmons’ suggestion of the questionnaire as a possible tool for the class was coupled with a suggestion to edit the questionnaire. But the suggestion was not followed. Bill Thurston failed to coordinate the task with his co-teacher Judy Baker. She was not knowledgeable, nor could she be responsible or even helpful later on. The failure to provide important information as a pre-test and post-test part of the process added complication.

The questionnaire seems not to have been appropriate nor connected to a biblical or theological approach to human sexuality. The failure to alert the parents to this specific program was also an oversight with ethical implications. This failure became the “trigger” for volatile reactions by the parents.

I question whether the pastoral administrative duties should include direct supervision of all curriculum {31} materials. However, it would have been helpful here had administrators requested advance copies of all class materials.

It is unclear whether permission was requested or granted from the publishers for the purpose of photocopy. Often, permission is assumed for classroom/educational purposes. However, in circumstances of this nature, copyright clearance would avoid legal complications.

I am unclear about the purpose in using the testing material. Information is lacking on the educational format for the test. Those administering testing materials have a responsibility to inform those completing the questionnaires about the intended use and purpose.

The fact that the students apparently did not speak with the teachers but alerted their parents may be a reflection upon the relationship of the class with their teachers and parents, or both.


Dave Lawson perceived the situation with alarm. Dave assumes some responsibility for the scenario himself but draws in Walt Simmons.

You were on the planning team for this whole sex education thing. You and I both think it’s important for the church to address such matters as human sexuality. What are we going to do about this? What should we do with Thurston and Baker? What about the kids?”

This plea for help acknowledges responsibility to some extent. Even more, it appeals for an assurance of support, and reaches for a consultation.


In difficult cases of this kind it is important to take the situation seriously; still one must avoid over-reacting.

To be ethically responsible, one should try to understand the total situation, taking into account one valid component of the curriculum—human sexuality—which has initial support and approval. It would then be proper to listen to the criticism and concerns of the parents, the youth, and the staff involved. One should solicit everyone’s support and urge {32} resolution of the conflicts in a constructive manner rather than by issuing threats to withdraw support.

Moreover, one should work at improving communication patterns, the coordination efforts and the teaching techniques of the staff, including the volunteers, the interns and the supervisors.

In addition, it would be best to gather all concerned parties for a well-structured meeting to clarify the situation and seek to redeem it. Preferably parents, students and staff should be brought together. Changes in the program that would meet the goals and expectations of all parties concerned would be considered. Such changes should be made in harmony with the church’s positions on human sexuality within the Scriptural and theological context.

Roland Reimer is Pastor of the First Mennonite Brethren Church in Wichita, Kansas.

Previous | Next