MANITOWOC, WI (WBAY) – The Manitowoc Public School District has taken down a flyer that was supposed to promote a safe prom but that some students were finding offensive.

It’s titled “A Night to Protect Her Character” and is sponsored by two area religious groups.

Some students say the poster sends a bad message that women can’t protect their own character and need men to do it.

“That’s a really backwards way at looking at thing. There’s no reason to be filling young woman’s heads with that garbage,” says Sam Grover, staff attorney for separation of church and state advocacy group the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The foundation says the district should not let religious groups post messages in schools.

The foundation sent a letter to the district today after they were contacted by a student who claimed she wasn’t allowed to post her own flyer opposing the message.

The Crossing of Manitowoc County is the main sponsor of the posters. They issued this statement to WBAY :

At The Crossing of Manitowoc County, we are very concerned with promoting healthy relationships among young people. Prom time seems to present particular risks for teens.  Our poster and outreach programs are intended to raise awareness of some of the potential risky behaviors often attached to prom night.  We hope that these posters will remind and encourage teens to embrace healthy responsible behaviors so that prom will be a “night to remember not a night to regret.”

The Crossing of Manitowoc County

The Holy Family Memorial is the other religious organization who sponsored the flyer. We reached out to the group and they responded with this statement to WBAY.

Holy Family Memorial supports the core message within this Prom poster, which is the promotion of social responsibility and safe behaviors for both young women and men.   This poster was one part in a series of timely social messages reinforcing the importance of values such as confidence, honesty and determination.   We firmly support the message of promoting healthy and responsible behavior among the youth of our community.

Mary C. Maurer, VP Community Engagement/Chief Innovation Officer, Holy Family Memorial

WBAY also reached out the district for response. Superintended Marcia Flaherty responded with this statement.

 The flyers posted which have become the center of controversy did not promote any religious theme or institution and were not religious in content. The flyers are not in violation of school district policy. Posters have been utilized for a number of years and, like past years’ messages, this poster was one of several merely intending to promote a positive prom experience.   No particular religious standard or expectation was being promoted. Social media reaction has demonstrated that any message can be interpreted in a wide variety of ways, many never contemplated or intended to be part of the original message. The posters have been taken down and the school hopes that the focus of prom can return to what should be a positive social experience for our students.

Marcia C. Flaherty, Superintendent, Manitowoc Public School District

Lincoln High School senior Elliot Stock says people are misinterpreting the message.

“It was basically saying that guys shouldn’t view women as a sex object but more as a person and that’s what all the words were saying,” he says. “That’s how a guy should view them – not that a girl can’t protect themselves.”

The school says they removed the flyers so they wouldn’t be a distraction from prom.