Four months after the now internationally infamous "pizza sex" assignment was given to eighth-graders at Kennedy Middle School in Enfield, the town's Board of Education has not yet figured out how it happened. Instead the board purportedly is stuck contemplating just how to figure out how it happened.
The assignment told students to use pizza topping choices as metaphors in negotiating with each other the sexual acts in which they would like to participate. This supposedly was to be a lesson in consensus building, as if pizza toppings could not have accomplished that by themselves, without serving as metaphors for sex, as if students had not already encountered pizza toppings requiring consensus building at home, and as if a school system whose student performance is as poor as Enfield's should have time for anything more than basic academics.
So should the local or state police, the state's attorney, or the Federal Bureau of Investigation be asked to handle the case? Maybe a General Assembly or congressional committee? How about hiring a private investigator? Or, as some school board members have suggested, should the board appoint a "task force" to review Enfield's school curriculum generally?
All this tortured contemplation aims to avoid getting the answer the school board only pretends to be seeking -- to avoid asking School Superintendent Christopher J. Drezak for a candid report on how the assignment got into the classroom, exactly where it came from, and how much school administrators knew about it before it descended on students.
For example, did the "pizza sex" assignment come from some lesson-planning service to which the school system subscribes? If so, what is that service and will the products it sends to the school system be made available for inspection by the board and the public?
How much more of this crackpot stuff has gotten into Enfield's schools, and how did it get in?
Or was the assignment devised within the school system itself, and, if so, by whom?
And exactly who in the school administration and outside the school administration -- the creators of the "pizza sex" assignment -- thinks that middle school students should be instructed to reveal and discuss their sexual desires with each other in class? Who would deprive students of that much privacy, and why?
The only information provided by the superintendent so far is that the school system had two consensus-building lessons using pizza toppings and that the sexual one was sent to the classroom because of a staff member's innocent mistake.
But was the school system's acquisition of the sexually themed assignment a mistake in the first place, or was it a policy decision?
That is a much bigger question.
Obviously the superintendent knows something about the origin of the lesson plan, and since he is paid more than $200,000 a year, he knows or should know more than he is telling.
But for some reason the school board won't ask him in public, and two weeks ago he refused to answer this column's simple questions as to where the assignment came from and how it got into the school system. He said the school board is reviewing the matter and he would reply when that review is completed -- as if the information requested isn't already contained in records that are held by the school administration and, under the law, subject to immediate disclosure but being concealed to avoid embarrassment.
Of course the school board already may have been privately told where the assignment came from and is supporting the superintendent's cover-up. An outsider's complaint about the cover-up to the state Freedom of Information Commission might pry answers loose, but only after a year or two of proceedings, by which time, the superintendent and board may hope, the issue will have been largely forgotten.
But a freedom-of-information complaint isn't necessary to establish that Enfield's schools, like many public schools throughout the country, notably including Hartford's, are doing things they don't want the public to know about and so are deficient not just in student performance but also in basic accountability. That is, Enfield's public schools, like many others, really aren't public at all.
Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.