DUNKERTON, Iowa - Administrators, teachers and students did not get what they expected Thursday during an extended school program.
Everyone anticipated the message from Junkyard Prophet, a traveling band based in Minnesota, to be about bullying and making good choices. Instead, junior and senior high students at Dunkerton High School and faculty members said they were assaulted by the group's extreme opinions on homosexuality and images of aborted fetuses.
"They told my daughter, the girls, that they were going to have mud on their wedding dresses if they weren't virgins," said Jennifer Littlefield, a parent upset with the band's performance.
Her daughter, Alivia Littlefield, 16, is a junior, and called Littlefield after the event.
"I couldn't even understand her, she was crying so hard," Littlefield said.
Littlefield also did not appreciate what she described as gay bashing.
"They told these kids that anyone who was gay was going to die at the age of 42," she said. "It just blows me away that no one stopped this."
The assembly began with music, which some students apparently liked well enough.
Overall, Superintendent Jim Stanton said, the group offered "a very strong anti-violence, anti-drug, anti-alcohol" message.
The band's lyrics offer evidence of some of their religious beliefs, though, like this passage from "Junkyard Rock."
"People be freakin' when we speakin' cuz we burnin it up,
The life you livin', when you sinnin' cuz we tearin it up,
With the word that hot,
From the School of Hard Knocks gonna break the rocks,
We ain't stoppin', the convictions poppin'
Junkyard in the house and the Holy Ghost droppin'."
"The kids were rocking out," Stanton said.
He noted Junkyard Prophet performed at the school years ago prior to his tenure. According to Stanton, staff members at the school at that time and officials from other districts had positive impressions of the group.
However, Stanton said, the group apparently changed and misrepresented its total message going into Thursday's appearance.
After performing, the group separated boys, girls and teachers in the building.
During the breakout session, the young men learned the group's thoughts on the U.S. Constitution and what one Prophet referred to as its "10 commandments." The leader also showed images of musicians who died because of drug overdoses, including Elvis Presley.
Members of the group blasted other performers, like Toby Keith, for their improper influence.
The girls, meanwhile, were told to save themselves for their husbands and assume a submissive role in the household. According to witnesses, the leader in that effort also forced the young ladies to chant a manta of sorts about remaining pure.
Those who walked out or attempted to confront the speakers were shouted down or ridiculed as disrespectful, according to students.
Heidi Manahl, Littlefield's sister, also had a student at the assembly. She, too, was appalled by Junkyard Prophet's message and tactics.
"I've never had so many young women come up to me crying because of what was said to them. They were bullied by these people and forced to sit there and told to be quiet," Manahl said.
Stanton spoke to the student body again at day's end, emphasizing the positive aspects of the group's message. But he also told students the presenters shared "an opinion about intolerance that's not in line with the beliefs of the Dunkerton Community Schools."
"We promote tolerance for one another," Stanton said. "We will continue to celebrate diversity in our student body."
Littlefield said she appreciates that the administration has accepted responsibility for the assembly, which clearly went awry.
"But the damage has been done. You let these people stay in the school for three hours," she added.
Manahl is concerned about what comes next. She hopes administrators and teachers reach out to "students who don't fit in."
"There are students in that school who are homosexual and they need to be protected," she said.
Littlefield isn't sure where officials go from here. But she is certain some repair work is in order.
"Something definitely has to be done to make the situation better," she said.
The district is trying to recover the fee paid to Junkyard Prophet, Stanton said. According to other sources, the band typically receives $1,500 per performance.