A friend of mine confronted an interesting dilemma this year with her high school son. She lives in Utah which has some of this country’s most conservative sex education laws. As one of three states in the country with an “opt-in” provision, Utah teachers instructing courses with material related to sexuality and reproduction cannot proceed with the class until all parents have signed a permission form. When my friend’s son signed up for a subject that would include sex education-related material, the teacher sent an email to parents informing them that there would be no “opting” in his course. He said, in essence, that a student either had to take this class “as is” or withdraw. The parent just wanted information and offered to talk to the teacher, but her son didn’t want to be a focus of attention and decided to withdraw from the class rather than feel different than his classmates. This was disappointing for all since this course would help her son with his plans to study medicine.
With increased frequency, public schools seem to crowd parents out of their right to make fundamental choices for their children regarding education – especially education about sexuality and relationships.
The sex education minefield
Sex education wasn’t always the minefield it is now. It originally consisted of pretty simple biology lessons that explained human development and reproduction. It often included information about sexually transmitted diseases, and if you lived in a progressive state, it may include information on contraception. Full stop.
But that is not the world our children live in today. For this generation of students, governments and agencies promote comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), and there’s a big difference between teaching children about biology and CSE which teaches about sexual feelings and how to best experience those feelings. Once the course becomes about sexual feelings, it evolves into lessons about pleasure, sexual expression, orientation and gender identity. It becomes less about what sex is and more about how to do it. According to Shafia Zaloom, a health educator in San Francisco, it’s necessary for children to have lessons about “safe sexuality” at school because it gives students the opportunity to “talk about these issues, learn about them, with the very people who they may be exploring those things with. And that’s something you really can’t create in your home.”
With CSE, students are taught to explore and experiment, to be accepting of all sexual activity, and most importantly, how to negotiate “safer sex” which basically means how to convince partners to use a condom when they don’t feel like it, or, better yet, alternatives to sexual intercourse that won’t get you pregnant, like mutual masturbation and anal sex. Curriculum designers want it to be fun and humorous so they use “games” and slang to train students in putting on condoms using anatomically correct models. Thrupples? S&M? Sex toys? Hey, don’t “yuck my yum.” “It’s all good.” And for a serious topic, it’s all so flippant and glib.
Sexuality – a human right?
Sexuality is explored using the language of human rights. Students are taught that sexual health and reproductive health are “human rights.” Students have a right to “control [they’re] own bodies and make decisions about [they’re] own sexual and reproductive behavior” including the ability to “seek the services [they] need” and “decide the outcome of a pregnancy.” These quotes come from Making Proud Choices, a curriculum designed for 11 to 14 year-olds.
But this is just the beginning. Schools are now teaching students about sexual orientation and gender identity. The National Education Association (NEA) advocates for LGBTQ education in the classroom in an effort to increase inclusivity and reduce bullying. Making schools a safe place for all students is a laudable goal, but how exactly does exploring one’s gender identity help with that?
Gender identity education – the next frontier
One of the resources the NEA directs teachers and school administrators to for both curriculum and professional development is GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network. GLSEN designs curriculum for students from kindergarten through high school. The lessons begin in kindergarten with stories that promote same-sex parenting, such as And Tango Makes Three. When children reach the third grade they get to start identity lessons which include gender identity and gender expression which is defined as “the way that we talk, how we interact with others, our clothing, accessories, hairstyles, activities we enjoy, and much more!” That’s right, gender has nothing to do with anatomy or biology. It’s all about how you wear your hair. You can be assured that this is a worthwhile use of your student’s time because exercises are aligned to common core objectives.
GLSEN’s Ready, Set, Respect! is a toolkit to help children recognize that families come in all shapes and sizes and that people should respect those differences. We can agree that it is important in a pluralistic society to treat all people with tolerance and respect. We need to be good neighbors. The lesson students won’t hear is that biological ties are important to children, that because it takes a man and a woman to make a baby, children have a right to a relationship with the two people that made them. That children have more than a right, they need what a mother and father can uniquely provide for a child. But there’s probably no common core objective for that.
The gender identity education loophole
One of the more troubling aspects of the gender identity education is that it isn’t considered sexuality education, therefore there is no need to notify parents, and it is woven into all of the subjects students are taught. The state of California is a prime example. Under the California Healthy Youth Act all comprehensive sexuality education must be inclusive of LGBTQ students. “It must also teach students about gender, gender expression, gender identity, and explore the harm of negative gender stereotypes. This means that schools must teach about sexual orientation and transgender, cisgender, and non-binary gender identities.” Parents may opt out their students for all or part of the CSE instruction. However, “schools may not facilitate the selective opt-out of lessons that are focused on LGBTQ content by parents/guardians whose students are otherwise in the classroom for other comprehensive sexual health and HIV prevention instruction.” It’s all or nothing.
The state claims that to allow parents to opt out their child for LGBTQ content would be a violation of non-discrimination provisions in the Education Code. In addition, in order to meet the requirements of the California Healthy Youth Act, “schools must integrate LGBTQ people throughout the curriculum and may not isolate this content to particular lessons…Separating out LGBTQ content and facilitating parental opt-out from that content would make it impossible for a school to fulfill its mandate of correcting hostile environments and would instead promote discrimination in violation of both state and federal law.” So, state mandates trump parental rights, and in the process imply that those who do not affirm LGBTQ behavior promote hostility. California widens the cultural divide by codifying that individuals cannot love the neighbor with whom they may disagree.
Talk about creating a hostile environment.
Even if your state lacks the heavy-handed mandates of the California Healthy Youth Act, that does not mean your children are not being indoctrinated in gender identity ideology. During the Obama administration, the Department of Education enacted guidelines that prohibited sex-based discrimination based on gender identity. Even though the Trump administration rescinded those guidelines, many states have passed laws that go even further than Obama-era regulations. Transgender students are suing school districts to force those guidelines and gain access to restrooms of the opposite sex. States are pressuring educators to undergo diversity training. Teachers also are taking it upon themselves to counsel and educate students regarding gender identity as well as facilitate coming out events for trans-identifying students. Bottom line – it’s a virtual Pandora’s Box.
Protecting our kids
When it comes to comprehensive sexuality education, you need to know what you, and your children, are facing. Go to the school and ask to see the curriculum. Teachers and officials will first present you with an outline that discusses the objectives of the class which will include words, such as: research-based, age appropriate, evidence-based, and demonstrated effectiveness. That is not enough. You need to know what is really in the lessons, so you need to ask to see the actual curriculum – the texts, handouts, videos, games, activities, online resources – everything. You need to know what the regulations are in your state regarding parental consent – are you an opt-in or opt-out state? (You can find them here.) Most states are opt-out. If that is the case, you need to know when your school will be teaching its sex ed classes. Parental notification letters often get lost and never make it to the parent. Ask at the beginning of the year so you can be prepared.
Protecting our children from the trans agenda is much more difficult. Parents in the Arlington County School District in Virginia learned that the hard way. Kristen Allen of the Arlington Parent Coalition makes the following recommendations:
- Be courageous. People are going to call you a bigot and a hater. Treat all people with respect and compassion, but “push back on those who want to reshape our children’s understanding of biology, personhood, privacy, and the primary role of parents.”
- Put together a diverse coalition. Unite with those from different faiths, cultures and political ideologies who can come together on this one issue. There is strength in numbers.
- Understand that the gatekeepers have failed you. Professional organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, and the National School Board Association may have caved to activists, but there are still individual health care professionals willing to speak out. Get them involved.
- Spread the truth about gender affirming therapy. Ask school administrators to produce the studies they use to justify their positions. Are they well-designed, longitudinal, peer-reviewed, with large, random samples? Be prepared with your own talking-points backed by credible social science.
- There are no opt-outs for our kids. “Public school children are being indoctrinated in transgender ideology by posters on the wall, speakers in the library, books on the shelves, after-school clubs, school-wide celebrations, and politicized teachers.” No matter where they go, our children are swimming in this culture. There’s no burying your head in the sand if you want to safeguard your family.
You are not alone in seeking to protect your children. Arm your kids with the truth, and prepare them for what they will encounter. Teach them to be kind to those who are confused and polite to those with whom they disagree. But show them through your own example the importance of standing up for what is right. There is a saying: Silence isn’t always golden. Sometimes it’s yellow. When it comes to this critical issue, silence hurts. For the sake of your children, make your voice heard. Be brave.