Controversial Speaker Fuels Firestorm At Texas High School
RICHARDSON (CBS 11 NEWS) – Was it well-intentioned motivation or gender stereotypes taken too far? Either way, the social media fueled firestorm over an assembly at Richardson High School this week seems only to be gathering steam.
“First time ever I get ambushed as soon as I walk in, with kids telling me that my program is wrong before I’ve ever done the program,” said motivational speaker and author Justin Lookadoo of McKinney.
Lookadoo said that after two decades and thousands of presentations, he has been stunned by the controversy stemming from his comments at Richardson High. “Everything that they [critics] said had nothing to do with the program, they didn’t like it when they walked in.”
When word spread earlier this week that Lookadoo would speak at an assembly focused on character, self-esteem and dating violence, many students—as has become the norm—went online to look him up, first. And many were immediately troubled by what they learned.
Lookadoo is also a faith-based author of a book in which he refers to his “Rules of Dating” for teenagers. Among some of the ‘rules’ taken from a promotional write up for the book: “Guys will learn that God loves adventure and that there’s a difference between a spiritual and a physical adventure. They’ll also learn how to be a gentleman (open her door and carry the box of leftovers from dinner, etc.) Girls will learn that beauty is defined by God, not supermodels, and that if they talk too much, they lose. They learn the secrets of staying confident and letting a guy lead.”
Lookadoo says he doesn’t blame the online controversy on social media. He blames the people who use it.
“They have taken one sentence off of a website, taken [it] out of context and used it to say—this is a quote from one of the women that is stirring it up the most—that I am promoting the rape culture,” the father of three claimed. “Yes, that’s what I want to do with my 4-year-old girl. Which part is a ‘rape culture’? [Is it] me empowering your girls to take control of a relationship? Is that part of the rape culture? Or is part of the ‘rape culture’ me telling guys to take care of girls and protect them. Is that part of the rape culture? Which part of the program is part of the ‘rape culture’? None of it is,” commented Lookadoo in disbelief.
Jaime Clark-Soles, a local college professor and Richardson High parent, has been an outspoken critic of the way the assembly was handled. “I understand that he did not read from his ‘Dateable Rules’, but how Richardson High School, or any high school would allow access to my child when he has these publicly stated views on gender is flummoxing me quite a bit.”
Clark-Soles admits that she went online to read about Lookadoo and posted her concerns to social media before he spoke at the school. She says her 16-year-old daughter was offended by the gender stereotypes perpetuated in the school presentation.
“She showed me this recording from her phone with the statement that girls are the most mean, vindictive creatures on earth. I don’t know how that’s supposed to be motivational, exactly,” says Clark-Soles who also questioned Lookadoo’s credentials and was bothered by the fact that she was not informed about the speaker and his background prior to the presentation.
The school has since posted an apology on its website, which reads, in part: “We were aware of these materials and confirmed with Mr. Lookadoo in advance of the assemblies that he would not discuss religion or these “Rules of Dating,” as part of his presentation. As agreed, he did not discuss these topics during either presentation. The intent of the assemblies was to provide a positive message to students about important topics that adolescents face today. While some parents and students enjoyed his presentation and feel it was effective, others have expressed concern about some of the characterizations he used to illustrate his topics. I deeply regret that anyone who attended the presentation was offended.”
Richardson High’s PTA apparently arranged for Lookadoo to speak; but, did so without notifying parents in advance. For that principal Charles Bruner also apologized, calling the lack of communication a “serious oversight.” He also said that Lookadoo, who spoke at the school in 2009, would not be invited back.
Clark-Soles said, “I appreciate that someone apologized, [but] it still doesn’t answer the question ‘how did this happen?’ How does a person like this get invited in and be given access to thousands of children to speak on a topic that they are not credentialed to speak upon?”
Concerned parents plan to gather this weekend to watch a videotape of the speech in its entirety. They have also been promised a meeting with the school principal.
Meanwhile, Lookadoo remains unapologetic. He said, “I will not change the message, because the message needs to be heard.”
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