Supporters defend proposed Nebraska sex education standards; say topics inclusive, age-appropriate

Gov. Pete Ricketts says the topics should be discussed at home, not school
Published: Apr. 1, 2021 at 7:43 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - After Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts called for the Board of Education to scrap topics from the new proposed health education standards, supporters indirectly responded to his comments, saying the topics are, in fact, age-appropriate and reflect the reality in which youth in Nebraska live in.

Last month, the Board of Education released a 60 page draft of standards that, if approved, would be recommended for implementation into health education in local school districts, but it wouldn’t be required.

Currently, Nebraska doesn’t have a standard for teaching sex education, and most districts follow national standards.

The draft includes eight main topics: foundations of personal health, nutrition and physical activity promotion, substance abuse prevention, disease prevention, injury prevention and safety, social, emotional, and mental health, human growth and development, and consumer and environmental health promotion.

“The comprehensive health education program motivates students to maintain and improve their health; advocate for self and others; prevent disease; form healthy relationships, and avoid or reduce health-related risk behaviors,” the draft reads.

Gov. Pete Ricketts weighed in on the debate over Nebraska sex education standards.

The proposal includes educating students beginning in the first grade about different family structures, followed by topics related to gender identity, sexual orientation, and gender-role stereotypes as they get older.

“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,” Ricketts said in a statement following the draft release.

Penned by local sex educators, faith leaders, and several organizations with medical staff, professors and school administrators, they believe it’s controversial to not talk about these topics.

“Young people benefit when the adults in their lives provide this science-based, inclusive, complete information that truly honors our complex realities,” said Lisa Schulze Thursday morning during a virtual event to talk about why the inclusive standards are vital to the health and development of young students.

“I think adults are just catching up to what our young people are navigating,” said Schulze, who is with the Women’s Fund of Omaha.

Topics in the proposal also center around sexual violence, safe and unsafe touch, and consent.

“Teaching consent to kids as laid out in the proposed health standards isn’t about sex, especially for kindergarteners, in the early years, it’s about teaching them that their bodies are their own and they should expect to be respected, its also teaching them to have respect for other peoples bodies and their right to say no,” said Jo Springer, with the SASA Crisis Center in Hastings, Nebraska.

Darryl Brown, with the Nebraska AIDS Project, is also a pastor and parent. During Thursday’s virtual meeting, he said inclusivity when it comes to learning about health and development shouldn’t be debated.

“You want to discuss privilege? It is never having your identity and the right to be educated and represented as such up for debate or in legislation.”

In his statement, Governor Ricketts said the draft was developed with the help of ‘political activists’ and provided information that is ‘non-scientific.’ He also said topics included should not be discussed at school, rather, at home.

Marti Carrington, a parent to three children at Omaha Public Schools, says that’s wrong.

“Children are being taught horrific stereotypes, inaccurate information, or dangerous rhetoric.”

Ricketts requested the board members remove certain topics, and encourages formal comment from the public. You can review the draft here, and submit a formal comment here.

Authors and proponents of proposed changes to sex education curriculum in Nebraska met to discuss the issue.

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