Some Fairfax Co. community members call for overhaul to sex education lessons

Some parents and community members are calling for an overhaul of Fairfax County Public Schools’ sex education curriculum, about a month after the committee that works on it presented its latest recommendations to the school board.

During the public comment portion of Thursday’s school board meeting, several speakers called for the Family Life Education lessons to be more inclusive, and, in some cases, urged school leaders to consider making them coed.

The comments come weeks after the FLE Curriculum Advisory Committee presented its latest recommendations to school staff. While they don’t mention coed instruction in the latest iteration, it was included in the committee’s recommendations in previous years.

“The Family Life Education Curriculum in Fairfax County Public Schools is not yet comprehensive sexuality education,” community member Robert Rigby said. “We need to begin at first principles and develop a program that meets the needs of children. That is, we need to start over.”

Christina McCormick, who said she’s a Fairfax County parent, told the board that sex education concepts should be inclusive of all gender and sexual identities.

“Our LGBTQ youth are already experiencing bullying and stigma,” McCormick said. “Separating them by gender for sex-ed furthers this and completely ignores the existence of students who identify outside of the binary, and further perpetuates heteronormativity.”

In its latest series of recommendations, the committee, which is made up of teachers, students, health department members and school board appointees, recommended a series of objectives and descriptive statements tied to setting personal boundaries for high schoolers, and revised objectives tied to puberty and reproductive systems in fourth through seventh grades.

Curriculum development is ongoing through the next school year, according to school board documents, and full implementation of the changes could come in the 2025-26 school year. The community review period ended June 10, and the topic is listed as a school board action item at the upcoming June 27 meeting.

For elementary schoolers, the committee is recommending exploring teaching gender identity and a more inclusive overall curriculum. At Thursday’s meeting, Vanessa Hall, with the group FCPS Pride, said the district’s family life education curriculum is “about three decades old.”

“Interim changes have been beneficial but cannot address deficiencies at the core of the curriculum developed in a previous century when gay marriage was illegal, and meant nearly all our students and staff were in the closet,” Hall said.

After the committee initially unveiled recommendations for certain coed sex education lessons, the school system launched a survey to gather public opinion. About 85% of people who responded to the survey opposed the proposal to put girls and boys in the same classroom for certain sex education lessons. Over 2,600 responses were collected.

Critics of coed lessons argue they’d make kids uncomfortable, and, as a result, they wouldn’t ask important questions. Advocates say they can create an inclusive environment and normalize conversations about reproduction and puberty.

At the meeting, one speaker said the proposal was “overwhelmingly opposed by parents, students and employees.”

Parents can opt their student out of certain family life education lessons.

More information about the school district’s Family Life Education curriculum is available online.

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Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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