Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts on Thursday called for scrapping sex education topics from draft state health standards.
The standards released Wednesday would teach students as young as first grade about gender identity.
Ricketts, in a statement, said that the sex education standards represent “a significant shift in approach” to health education and that many of the new themes are sensitive topics that should be addressed by parents at home and not by schools.
He said the standards were developed “with the help of political activists, and without the input of key mainstream organizations.”
“The new standards from the department would not only teach young children age-inappropriate content starting in kindergarten, but also inject non-scientific, political ideas into curriculum standards,” he said.
Department of Education officials said the 60-page draft Nebraska Health Education Standards were written by a team of educators, including school administrators and elementary, middle and high school teachers in the fields of physical education, health and family and consumer science.
According to the department, various organizations and individuals provided advice on the standards. The department said that among those on the advisory team were medical professionals, community health educators, professors and researchers, school psychologists, sexual health education specialists, dietitians, nurses, parents and representatives of local health departments.
The department released the draft standards to take public comment on them before adoption by the Nebraska State Board of Education, which is expected later this year.
Robin Stevens, a member of the board from Gothenburg, said Thursday that people should allow the standards-approval process to work.
“This is the first draft that’s out there,” Stevens said. “We want to hear what people have to say. I have a feeling that the final draft will look much different than it is right now.”
He said the board needs to hear from people across the state and “in all walks of life.”
Stevens said the governor’s opinion is valuable to the process.
“I would hope that we would get a lot of input from him about his concerns,” he said.
Ricketts urged parents “to speak up now, and to share their reaction with the department, so it can be made a part of the formal record to the full board.”
The draft standards emphasize teaching children respect for people of all genders, gender expressions and gender identities.
Kindergarteners would be taught about different kinds of family structures, including “cohabitating” and same-gender families.
Fourth graders would be taught the difference between sex assigned at birth and gender identity. Fifth graders would be taught that gender expression and gender identity exist along a spectrum.
Sixth graders would learn what sexual identity is and learn about a range of identities related to sexual orientation, among them heterosexual, bisexual, lesbian, gay, queer, two-spirit, asexual and pansexual.
In addition to addressing gender issues, the standards address various health-related topics, including the importance of nutrition and physical activity, dangers of substance abuse, injury prevention, social and emotional health, and human growth and development.
The state currently has no health standards.
The board is not required under state law to create health standards, unlike the core academic subjects of math, English, writing, social studies and science, for which the law mandates state standards. As such, the health standards, if approved, would only be recommended for adoption by local districts.
Districts are required by the state to have written health standards or frameworks for health education. Many districts use the National Health Education Standards or their own locally developed standards.
People can review the draft standards here. Members of the public can submit formal comment by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or submit comments online at nde.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_8dI1y2pRSfXlG8R.
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