Students at Pineview Elementary had been dressing in costume all last week as part of an annual school tradition called Wacky Week. On Friday, students were encouraged to dress either as senior citizens or as members of the opposite sex.
A local resident informed the Voice of Christian Youth America on Friday. The Milwaukee-based radio network responded by interrupting its morning programming for a special broadcast that aired on nine radio stations throughout Wisconsin. The broadcast criticized the dress-up day and accused the district of promoting alternative lifestyles.
"We believe it's the wrong message to send to elementary students," said Jim Schneider, the network's program director. "Our station is one that promotes traditional family values. It concerns us when a school district strikes at the heart and core of the Biblical values. To promote this to elementary-school students is a great error."
Schneider co-hosts "Crosstalk," a nationally syndicated call-in Christian radio show, along with Vic Eliason and Ingrid Schlueter.
"We became aware of this from constituents in your area. Anything that concerns the populace is important enough to talk about," Eliason said. "This is tax-funded - this is not a dress-up party in somebody's house. There are parents, taxpayers who do not appreciate the imposition of a particular lifestyle being portrayed as a normal lifestyle for the kids."
After the program aired, both the school and Reedsburg School District office were flooded with calls complaining about the event.
The response surprised Principal Tammy Hayes, who said no one had raised any objections beforehand. She said a flier detailing Wacky Week had been sent home with children the prior week, and an announcement was also included in teacher newsletters.
"Nobody contacted me," Hayes said.
"The promotion of transgenderism - that was not our purpose," Benson said. "Our purpose was to have a Wacky Week, mixing in a bit of silliness with our reading, writing and arithmetic."
The theme for Friday's dress-up day came from students, Hayes said. The Wacky Week schedule was created by Pineview's Student Senate with the guidance of secretary Shari Miller.
"It's different every year. They basically present the ideas, and they vote on what they would like from Monday through Friday," Hayes said. "I feel awful for the kids and Shari. They did not mean anything by this day. They were trying to have fun and come up with a fun dress-up day."
About 40 percent of the student body dressed up Friday, Hayes estimated, with half portraying senior citizens and half dressing as the opposite sex.
"I can assure you we will not be having this day (again)," Hayes said.
Schneider said VCY America had no plans to rebroadcast its news special.
Reedsburg is in southern Wisconsin, about 60 miles northwest of Madison.