Radio Disney has withdrawn from an educational program with the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program, citing strong opposition from activists across Ohio and elsewhere.
The decision comes after 21 local environmental groups across Ohio signed a letter chiding Radio Disney for supporting the Rocking in Ohio program staged in schools.
“The sole intent of the collaboration between Radio Disney and the nonprofit Rocking in Ohio educational initiative was to foster kids’ interest in science and technology,” a Radio Disney spokesperson said in an email.
“Having been inadvertently drawn into a debate that has no connection with this goal, Radio Disney has decided to withdraw from the few remaining installments of the program,” the statement said.
Activists said Rocking in Ohio, a 60-minute interactive program presented in schools in eastern Ohio, was inappropriate in pushing shale drilling. A spokeswoman said they were pleased by the Radio Disney decision.
Rocking in Ohio supporters have said the program emphasizes science and technology, not drilling.
In a letter released Thursday, Columbus activist Teresa Mills of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice told Radio Disney that her supporters were “stunned and horrified” that it was aligned with the Granville-based Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program.
It is unfair that Disney would partner with the oil industry to indoctrinate children with “a one-sided, factually unsupported” view of fracking, she wrote.
“The events, hosted at schools and fairs, masked as educational programming are nothing more than an attempt by the oil and gas industry to brainwash our children about this extractive and harmful industry. We are adamantly opposed to the mission of this campaign and the unnatural partnership between Disney and the oil and gas industry,” she added.
“We believe that the education our children receive ... should be free of ulterior motives and industry propaganda,” Mills wrote.
She asked Radio Disney to discontinue its support.
The groups supporting the request included the Stark Summit Coalition, Concerned Citizens Ohio (Shalersville), Concerned Citizens of Medina County and Concerned Citizens of Stark County.
That campaign was supported by a petition with 80,000 signatures from California-based Climate Parents and by a Twitter campaign the Sierra Club aimed at Disney.
Mills had echoed similar comments in a Dec. 18 story in the Beacon Journal about the Rocking in Ohio program following its visit to Mogadore’s O.H. Somers Elementary, where 200 fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders participated. The 60-minute show was patterned after a television show, with games, races, competition and prizes.
Mogadore was among 26 scheduled stops for the program.
Supporters expressed surprise at Mills’ reaction and comments.
Rocking in Ohio is designed to get kids excited about careers in science, technology, engineering and math, not to push drilling, Rhonda Reda, executive director of Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program, said after Mills’ initial comments.
The word “fracking” never popped up during the program, Reda said.
The program combines information about oil and natural gas creation and production with fun activities, she said. It also highlights the sciences involved in the drilling industry, such as chemistry and geology, with a goal of exciting children about science.
It was Radio Disney that approached Reda’s group to get involved in sponsoring the school assemblies. Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program funded the project and partnered with Radio Disney to present it.
Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program is a nonprofit education and public outreach group of the Ohio drilling industry.
Efforts to contact Reda on Saturday were unsuccessful.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.