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Opinion: Sex ed shouldn't cast conservative parents as 'weird minority'

Jane Robbins of Atlanta is an attorney and senior fellow at the American Principles Project, a conservative think tank.​ In this piece, she talks about sex education, focusing on the different programs used in DeKalb and Gwinnett schools.

As the AJC reported earlier this year:

Gwinnett is one of several area school districts that use an abstinence-centered curriculum called “Choosing the Best.” Gwinnett has used the curriculum since 2001 and a committee reviews it throughout the year, school district officials said. Other area districts that use “Choosing the Best” include Fulton, Cobb, Clayton, Forsyth, Marietta, Hall, and Fayette, Gwinnett officials said. Parents can choose not to allow their children to participate in the sex ed classes.

Polls shows parents overwhelmingly support sex education, but that’s where the consensus typically ends. DeKalb County dropped “Choosing the Best” about a decade ago in response to parent protests about its accuracy, switching to a program called FLASH, “Family Life and Sexual Health.” In 2015, Fulton updated its materials, saying many of them had become outdated. Some health care advocates and parents argued the lessons didn’t teach teens how to protect themselves from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

With that background, here's the column by Robbins.

By Jane Robbins

A few Gwinnett parents and students have recently complained about the abstinence-centered sex-ed program (“Choosing the Best”) used in the schools’ health classes. Preferring what is termed a “comprehensive” approach, some have proposed as an alternative the Family Life and Sexual Health (FLASH) program used now in the DeKalb County School District.

How’s that working out for DeKalb? In 2016, though it had over 19,000 fewer 15- to 17-year-olds than Gwinnett, DeKalb reported significantly more pregnancies (263 vs. 187), abortions (80 vs. 62), and STD cases (638 vs. 449) in this age group. This would not appear to be a compelling reason to switch to FLASH.

FLASH pushes and, in some cases,demonstrates birth-control methods without warning about failure rates or health risks. (Choosing the Best is more “comprehensive” in this respect, since it also discusses contraception and includes all the medical information missing from FLASH.) FLASH’s Curriculum Mapping Tool for grades 6-8 lays out the orientation of the curriculum: “The role of the educator is to foster attitudes that will lead students to seek health care and, especially, to seek condoms and prescription contraception.”

No wonder FLASH is “especially” recommended by Planned Parenthood – what better way to suck underage girls into the dark but lucrative world of promiscuity and contraception followed by abortion(s) and STD treatment? The program also references Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation as teacher resources.

FLASH also injects a heaping dose of political indoctrination into its curriculum. According to a report from Fox 5, DeKalb parents were upset when a Lithonia Middle School health teacher administered a test asking 6th-graders to respond to questions about “cisgender,” “gender queer,” and “gender fluid,” among other terms created as part of a political rather than scientific agenda. Parents objected to testing students on fabricated, sexualized nonsense and to usurping parents’ role in explaining these concepts in their own way and on their own timetable.

But this wasn’t just a radical teacher going rogue: It’s in the FLASH curriculum.

To be considered comprehensive among agenda-driven “experts,” a sex-ed program must discuss LGBT issues. The excuse is that those kids too must learn how to protect themselves (abstinence-centered programs teach the value of abstinence for all teenagers of any sexual proclivity). As illustrated by the Lithonia Middle lesson, much of this is simply propaganda designed to normalize any type of sexual behavior or confusion.

The indoctrination is direct. One 4th-grade lesson teaches that all family structures – mom/dad, mom/mom, dad/dad, whatever – are equally valid and healthy. Other middle-school lessons celebrate different sexual orientations and gender identities.

Some parents agree with this philosophy and certainly have the right to teach their beliefs to their children. But others don’t accept it, because it conflicts with their faith and/or because they recognize that children thrive best when they have both a mother and a father. Why are their beliefs disregarded?

DCSD emphasizes that parents may opt their children out of the lessons in accordance with Georgia law. But one DeKalb parent claims she did opt her daughter out of the instruction but that her wishes were ignored (DCSD hasn’t responded publicly to this claim). Others say they never received opt-out information. And even if allowed to opt out, are parents given full information about what the health curriculum contains – “gender queer” and all – or just a statement of the general topics to be covered? Parental opt-out may be less meaningful than it appears.

But more fundamentally, the statutory opt-out language was adopted decades ago, in the more innocent days when the Legislature sought only to limit governmental intrusion on parents’ right to teach the biological, emotional, and religious aspects of sex. Legislators certainly never imagined a school would use the health course to teach concepts that are not only scientifically unsupported but part of a political agenda to indoctrinate children into a particular worldview.

Imagine the opposite situation. Suppose a school taught that the ideal family structure consists of mother, father, and children and that there’s no scientific basis for “gender fluidity,” but allowed parents to opt out of that instruction. The political shrieking would be audible from the moon. So why are traditional parents, who certainly comprise the vast majority of Georgians, treated like a weird minority who must seek special dispensation from the school to protect their children from alien beliefs? Why don’t schools just stay out of this minefield and let parents handle it?

DeKalb parents are seeing what happens with “comprehensive” sex education. Gwinnett parents should take notice.










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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.