Some facts to consider when considering a Sex Education and Health Awareness Program in either a Public Traditional District or Charter School:
- According to the Anne E. Casey 2019 Kids Count Report, Arizona ranks 32nd among the 50 states with regards to incidents of teen pregnancy with 22 out of a 1000 young ladies aged 15 to 19 becoming pregnant.
- According to the same report, Arizona ranks 36th out of 50 states with having children live (37 percent of them) in single-family homes.
- The Anne E. Casey report also showed that Arizonans ranked 28th out of 50 states when it comes to child and teenage death rates per 100,000 children.
- According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, the number of sexually transmitted diseases are rising with a 16 percent increase from 2016 to 2017.
- According to the Movement Advancement Project, there are approximately 250,000 members of the LGBTQ community that reside in Arizona. Four and a half percent of them are parents, trying to successfully raise their children like heterosexual families.
- Bullying and discriminating against anyone for any reason, including sexual orientation and experience, is wrong.
- This is the Twenty-First Century, not the Mid-Twentieth.
It is partially due to these facts and recent court rulings that the State Board of Education met yesterday (June 24, 2019) to consider revising the language in the Sex Education Health Guidelines to include:
- “Removing language that states sex education “shall not include the teaching of abnormal, deviate, or unusual sexual acts and practices.”
- Adding language that states sex education should “be medically and scientifically accurate.”
- Adding language that instruction over sexually transmitted infections should include medically accurate instruction on how to prevent infection transmission.
- Allowing schools to teach sex education to boys and girls together, instead of separately. The rule change would make teaching the two genders separately an option for schools.”
These suggestions make sense and would have moved Sex Education in Arizona into the late Twentieth Century (It is 2019 for those who have forgotten) where all states and education departments should be but unfortunately are not despite widespread public support (according to a Planned Parenthood poll) for providing it in schools.
Unfortunately for the State Board of Education Members, many public attendees, including the Donna Trump of Legislative District 16 Kelly Townsend, of the Monday, representing the mostly minority view of whether Sex Ed should be taught in public schools attended the meeting of the Arizona State Board of Education.
These individuals, who Arizona Central Columnist EJ Montini alluded to as being “ignorant of facts” did not get the memo that the proposed rule changes for sex education guidelines would not interfere with the curriculum their district or charter school would develop or take away their choice as parents on whether to enroll their children in a health awareness class that covers sexual awareness and preventive measures to combat sexually transmitted diseases.
Instead of coming to the meeting well informed on the facts and willing to listen to the presentation of the board members (including State Superintendent Kathy Hoffman), these individuals, like a misinformed village mob from a Universal Horror Movie (except without the pitchforks and torches) or more recently, the scene of banning certain books depicted in Field of Dreams, focused like a laser beam on conveying their reactionary counterproductive agenda in a mob rule mentality, forcing the Board of Education to table the proposed rule changes.
After the Board meeting, Superintendent Hoffman relayed:
“Today during our State Board of Education meeting, we heard nearly four hours of public comment regarding proposed amendments to board policies about sex education. I greatly respect that parents came to this meeting to advocate for their families and I appreciate the sensitivity that surrounds this topic.
While I have many takeaways from the comments, it became clear to me that there is a misunderstanding about what is decided by districts and what guidelines can be set by the State Board of Education. Sex education curriculum is determined by districts and local school boards. Parents have always had the right to opt their child in or out of these health courses if they wish to provide that information themselves. The language proposed today did not attempt to change this, nor did it mandate or institute additional curriculum. The minor changes were intended to clean up outdated language in state guidelines and ensure that any curriculum a district chooses is medically and scientifically accurate.
I heard from community members and parents who were concerned about the information their children would be provided if their districts were to account for LGBTQ students in health education. Arizona’s public schools exist to serve all students who walk through their doors. However, for decades, codified bigotry has denied too many children information about their sexual health.
I am greatly concerned with the health of our students. With rising rates of suicide, depression, and transmission of STIs, it is my utmost priority that all students have access to medically accurate information so that they can make healthy, informed choices. It is a matter of safety and respect.”
When I attended high school in New York in the 1980s before moving to Arizona, families were given the choice of enrolling their children in either the health course that provided sex education or the one that did not. Most parents, like my father who, when I repeatedly asked him about the birds and the bees said the “birds go tweet tweet and the bees go buzz buzz,” enrolled their children in the health class with sex education.
If polls like the recent one cited earlier are accurate, most parents would make the decision that my parents and others made in New York close to 40 years ago.
Having Board meetings in a public venue is a positive feature of our Democracy.
Allowing the public to speak out at these meetings and offer their views is an equally positive feature of our open democratic system.
Unfortunately, the drawback is when uninformed individuals, with a prearranged backward agenda, attend these meetings and move the pace of progress backward.
A Democracy cannot function or thrive when the minority reactionary mob (idiots) could take control of a public setting and, without the presence of representatives from the sane and sensible majority to prevent them, steer public policy in the wrong direction.
Hopefully, the Board will have a chance to revisit the opportunity to consider these changes to the sex education guidelines.
Hopefully, like the movement, last year among the informed to quash the attempt to change the Science standards to a theocratic document that denied evolution, the big bang theory, and climate change, the people will read about what happened at the Board of Education on June 24 and rise to push forward a new approach.