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Protect our kids and schools
FROM THE GOVERNOR

Protect our kids and schools

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Earlier this year, the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) published draft health standards for public comment that included several sex education topics. Like many Nebraska parents, I was deeply troubled by the standards.  They would teach young children age-inappropriate content starting in kindergarten. They would also inject non-scientific, political ideas into curriculum standards. That’s why I have called on the NDE to scrap the proposed sex education topics in the standards. 

 I want to be clear about how the Nebraska Department of Education is governed. Unlike many other state agencies, NDE does not report to me. The agency is governed by a board that’s separately elected. I will not have the final say as to whether or not the standards are adopted. It’s very important for parents to weigh in with their input as the State Board of Education decides what to do with the standards. We need to fight to keep our schools free from sexually mature content and partisan indoctrination. Parents, not bureaucrats, should decide how to educate children about sex and controversial cultural issues. 

The proposed sex education standards represent a significant shift in approach to health education. Many of the new themes are sensitive topics that should be addressed by parents at home and not by schools. Children who are the same age often mature at different rates. Families approach many of these topics from different perspectives, and may choose to address them at different points in a child’s development. That’s why parents, not schools, should be the ones deciding when and how to educate kids about many sex-related topics.

It’s important to understand just how radical the draft NDE standards are. The standards would introduce kids to politically motivated and sexually explicit content at very young ages. The standards say that first graders should be taught to define gender identity. Fifth graders would be educated to “explain that gender expression and gender identity exist along a spectrum.” At 12-years-old, students would be taught about anal and oral sex. Many kids that age haven’t yet reached puberty. This material not only sexualizes our kids, it goes far beyond basic biological facts about reproduction and clearly crosses the boundary of what’s appropriate to discuss in the classroom. 

There’s a reason why NDE ended up with such outlandish standards: The process to develop these standards was flawed. While NDE did not consult with the State’s Chief Medical Officer when drafting the standards, OutNebraska, a LGBTQ political activist group, was invited to participate in the development of the standards. Meanwhile, mainstream groups like the Nebraska Catholic Conference were denied a role in the process—even though Catholic schools educate about 10% of kids in our state. Given the non-inclusive approach, it’s not surprising that the draft standards are out of touch.

Furthermore, it’s not a requirement for the Nebraska Department of Education to write health standards. In the past, the Nebraska Legislature has specifically decided against this kind of approach to sex education. After reviewing the proposed health standards, a bipartisan majority of State Senators wrote a letter calling on the NDE to remove “all sex education and other ideologically motivated content” from them.  

The review process isn’t over yet, and it’s important that you make your voice heard. In the coming months, the NDE will re-evaluate the draft health standards in light of the public input it has received. The draft was full of problems, and I continue to urge the NDE to scrap the sex education topics altogether rather than trying to modify them. 

The State Board of Education met on April 2, 2021 to hear public input on the standards. An overwhelming majority of speakers voiced strong opposition to them. It was evident from the meeting that the standards lacked the public support that should be expected for curriculum taught in schools. 

I encourage parents in Nebraska to review the draft health standards at education.ne.gov and to provide feedback by completing the Health Education Standards Survey on the NDE’s website. Nebraskans should also contact their district representative on the State Board of Education. A map of the districts, along with contact information for all board members, is online at www.education.ne.gov/stateboard/members.  

If you want more information about this topic or any other, please email me at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or call 402-471-2244. I hope the NDE’s draft health standards will motivate parents across the state to get more involved in their local school. It’s important that the next generation of Nebraskans receive an education that’s consistent with our shared values and free from ideological indoctrination. 

Pete Ricketts is the governor of Nebraska.

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