LGBTQ students, parents clash over Fairfax County Public School’s inclusive sex ed
Fairfax County Public Schools have become a kind of battleground for LGBTQ inclusive sex classes. The program, called “Family Life Education” by the school system, made headlines last year when they added language which affirmed different sexualities and gender identities in high school classes.
The real points of concern from conservatives deal with lesson plans in the 9th and 10th grade. It’s in these years, when the lessons are taught, during a student’s social studies class, that sexuality, gender identity, and HIV and other STI lesson plans are first introduced.
“Students concerned about their sexuality will be advised to discuss these concerns with a parent, member of the clergy, trusted adult, or counselor,” read’s the 9th grade lesson plan after introducing the concept of homosexuality to students.
In the 10th grade, students are instructed on how sexuality “develops throughout a lifetime and how sexuality encompasses attitudes, values, and behaviors.” Sexual and gender identities are also discussed along with social and legal issues around the topics.
10th grade lesson plans also include a more comprehensive look at HIV/AIDS and how those with the illness should be treated compassionately.
While meetings since then have cooled off to some degree, public comment continues to open the door for strong opinions on both sides of the matter.
Thursday night’s meeting included testimony from a number of parents and former students who wished to see changes made to the program – some wanting more LGBTQ-inclusive discussion, others wanting less.
“Not feeling accepted at any school makes an unsafe environment for any student and the main goal of any school district is to make their students feel safe,” said Kayden Ortiz (top image), a recently graduated Senior from Robinson Secondary School who identified as a trans man.
Ortiz spoke about times when he did not feel safe in school, and how those moments impacted his life, leading to multiple suicide attempts and self-mutilation. He recalled one instance where he tried to play basket ball for the school but was placed on the girl’s team because of his birth gender.
“I’m not the only child in FFC to have felt this way,” he said. “I urge you to please educate our teachers and administrative staff to know how to handle everyone and not just the majority.”
Joseph Housel (pictured below), another graduate of Robinson Secondary who now teaches within the FCPS system, spoke about his own experiences feeling unsafe in school. While his parents told him he was supposed to feel safest at school, he often felt the opposite.
“Why would you put me in a situation that would not make me feel safe?,” he asked the School Board members.
He then went on to encourage the board to pass more inclusive policies, like including more information on STI prevention, same-sex intercourse and abusive relationships within the LGBTQ community.
“Without this information, students will find misleading information online and continue to make bad decisions until the consequences are dire,” he said.
Housel also recalled his time in sex ed, when the topic of sexuality and gender identity was discussed, it was, in his eyes, passed over to quickly and “raised many questions that were never answered.”
“If we had more lessons that could identify the difference between transgender, transsexuality, and gender fluidity, we would have more understanding and less stigma attached to these labels,” he said.
On the other side of the issue was Meg Kilgannon (pictured below), a Fairfax County resident with four children, three of which were still in the school system.
Kilgannon said she opted all of her children out of the school’s sex ed programs because she was “deeply concerned” about the curriculum being taught to her kids.
“It seems like we’re leaving out common sense and science, just like love and morality was left out in previous years,” she said.
She also questions the role of schools in teaching sex ed in the first place, saying “love is lost when our more intimate selves are discussed in group settings with powerpoints and worksheets…. the role of the school system should be to support parents, not direct us.”
Kilgannon said the school board had been hijacked by a vocal minority while “tax paying parents are ignored and shut out.”
She also suggested the sex ed curriculum was sexist because there were more vocabulary words associated with male genitalia than there were with female’s. This, according to the parent, continued the stereotype that “mens sexual reproduction was more important than women.”
She also claimed there was a lack of teaching around other women’s health issues like heavy menses and when to call a doctor if a period becomes unsafe.
“This kind of misogyny pervades the entire curriculum,” she said. “We’ve come a long way baby unless you’re in FFC [Family Life Education]. In those classes, it’s still a man’s world. As a school board with 9 women on it, you should be ashamed.”
Less controversial additions and changes to the sex ed program were voted on last night, and they passed with a large majority, but the fight for more inclusive sex ed continues in Virginia’s largest school district.
Check out the entire meeting from last night below. The testimony used above starts around 1:28:00
Last month, a Fairfax County judge tossed out a lawsuit Liberty Counsel brought against the county’s school board in an attempt to reverse protections for transgender students and staff. The Christian legal organization said then they planned to appeal it, and that’s exactly what they have done. Libery Counsel filed an appeal of the judge’s decision [...]March 24, 2016
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