Fairfax school leaders to vote on new health curriculum

WASHINGTON — The Fairfax County school board is poised to vote on new recommendations that would change the school system’s Family Life Education curriculum in 2016 to include instruction on gender identities and sexual orientation.

Supporters say the new guidelines would reduce discrimination, but critics say it’s immoral and unnecessary.

If the recommendations are approved, students in the seventh grade would be provided the definitions for terms like heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality; and the gender identity term “transgender.”

In the eighth grade, students will be taught that sexuality is a broad spectrum and “individual identity will also be described as having four parts – biological gender, gender identity (includes transgender), gender role, and sexual orientation (includes heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual).”

In the ninth grade, lessons will teach the development of sexuality as a “lifelong aspect of personality … and that sexuality evolves from infancy to old age.”

In tenth grade, instruction will emphasize that “there is a broader, boundless and fluid spectrum of sexuality that is developed throughout a lifetime.”

At a school board hearing this week, many parents protested these recommendations, saying the new lessons are contrary to their religious and moral beliefs.

“These proposals seem unnatural, forced, as if they were pulled out of thin air,” one parent said. “The idea of gender or sexuality changing throughout a child’s life is a 21st century construct.”

Another parent said there hasn’t been enough time to consider or debate these changes. “It’s your morality imposed on the rest of us,” she argued. “And in this case, it contravenes the teachings of nearly every faith in this county.”

The instruction will teach diversity and provide additional support, proponents say.

“LGBT high school students are more likely than their heterosexual classmates to attempt suicide,” one woman said.  “By providing our students with age-appropriate, medically-accurate information about these sexualities and identities, we are empowering them to make healthy decisions about their bodies and their lives that may help reduce these health disparities.

“It is better that they get this information from teachers and trusted adults than risk possibly getting misinformation in the locker room or on the street,” the woman continued. “Sexuality and gender identity are not a choice, but an immutable part of who a human being is. Teaching students to respect diversity is not a bad thing.”

Parents can opt out of Family Life Education lessons. The school board will vote June 25 and the public is welcome to comment until June 19. If approved, these new recommendations would be implemented in the fall of 2016.

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