Amanda Wright, whose daughter Saige attends Spring Canyon Middle School in Springville, told Fox News that educators were indoctrinating students into a "dark climate change religion" by assigning the essay titled, "Why America Should Be Eating Bugs."
A description of the assignment posted to the school’s website reads in part: “Students just wrapped up a unit on if bugs are a good source of protein or not which culminated in an extra exciting day where students could even try out a bug if they wanted to. Middle-schoolers loved the ‘ewww’ factor (and) many of them gave bugs a try (and even a few staff members!).”
Wright told Fox News that she was upset about the assignment and recorded her conversation with educators in a meeting. Saige also recorded a conversation between herself and a teacher.
In the student's video (the legitimacy of which was confirmed by the Nebo School District in an email to TODAY.com) a teacher told Saige that eating insects was a socially-conscious choice.
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"How come we can't state our opinion of why Americans shouldn't be eating bugs?" Saige asked her teacher in the recording.
"Because we don't have any evidence to support it," replied the teacher. "It’s kind of weird that I gave you a topic where there is only one right answer. We don’t want to eat bugs and it’s gross. But should we be eating bugs? Yeah, because we’re killing the world by raising cows and animals. So we need to just, not get rid of cows, but like, try to balance our diet so that not so much of our land is being used to raise cows, cause it’s killing the Ozone layer.”
"So there's only one right answer for this essay and it's that Americans should be eating bugs," said the teacher. "Everyone else in the world is eating them, it's healthy for the environment."
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When Saige asked if students were eating grasshoppers the following day, the teacher indicated yes, stating there was no requirement to participate.
A spokesperson for the Nebo School District tells TODAY.com that students “really loved” the assignment.
"It was a fun way to engage students in writing an argumentative essay, which is a core standard in language arts," says the spokesperson. "Students explored fact vs. opinion and how to determine what a valid source of information is to cite in their own writing. Students have been writing on a wide range of topics all term and one of the final projects was studying and writing about if Americans should be eating bugs for protein."
The teacher was unaware she was being filmed by her student, according to the district spokesperson.
"This student recorded this teacher and used only snippets of what she actually said and used them out of context," she says.
"When the teacher realized there was concern, the student was offered another topic of the student’s choice," says the spokesperson, adding, "When the teacher said there is only one right answer, she was referencing one particular article about this argumentative essay — not her own opinion."
The teacher purchased the "edible bugs" from a commercial website that stated they were "safe for consumption," says the spokesperson.
Offering the bugs as extra credit was "an afterthought," she continued. "There are multiple opportunities for extra credit or bonus points in this class."
TODAY.com could not reach Wright for comment and the district did not clarify which type of bugs were offered to students.
Can bugs actually be part of a nutritious diet? Perhaps.
"Bugs are eaten just about everywhere in the world except the United States and Europe," Rick Redak, a professor of entomology and department chair at UC Riverside, tells TODAY.com. "There are probably 500 to 1,000 species of insects that are used for food."
According to the Food Science of Animal Resources, in Japan, bee or wasp larvae is a luxury food, South Korean stores sell canned silkworm pupae and in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Nigeria edible insects are school cafeteria fare. Meanwhile, a new study identified the “tequila worm,” found in distilled Mexican alcoholic drinks, as agave redworm moth. Redak points out that lobsters, shrimp and crab are closely related to insects.
For those with curious palates, it's easy to find packaged bugs (crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars, mealworms) for human consumption in flavors like chocolate, curry or honey mustard.
"Bugs are a good source of protein, carbohydrates and are readily abundant, as people look to reduce their environmental footprint," says Redak.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, edible insects produce less greenhouse gas than livestock, improves food security and can be grown on compost. "Therefore, insects are a potential source for conventional production (mini-livestock) of protein, either for direct human consumption, or indirectly in recomposed foods (with extracted protein from insects); and as a protein source into feedstock mixtures," reads the website.
In fact, people regularly consume insects without realizing it, says Redak.
"Cochineal dye is a product of the cochineal scale insect which grows mostly on cactus," he explains. "It provides a dark purple or red dye which is used in all kinds of makeup products (lipstick, blush) and food additives. It's ground-up insects."
The students at Spring Canyon Middle School, Redak says, were likely unharmed by eating the bugs.
This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY