K-12 Sex Education Proposal Draws Governor's Ire, Support From Contributor

March 24, 2021, 9:03 a.m. ·

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Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts is calling on the state Education Department to scrap a draft proposal of sex educations standards that, if approved by the Nebraska Board of Education, would be upheld as the official guidelines for Nebraska Schools for K-12th grades.

Ricketts believes the proposed standards would encourage sensitive and, in some cases, politically controversial instruction for children. He cited parts of the proposal calling for the teaching of gender-expression and certain family structures as examples.

“At what age is that appropriate?,” asks Ricketts, “Is third grade really the right age for that, or is that a matter for parents to decide? And that's my point... That's where it's appropriately taught, and they (parents) can decide what age is appropriate for them, (it’s) not something that the schools ought to be getting involved in.”

Ricketts also claims the standards were authored with the help of what he sees as political action groups like Out Nebraska, a nonprofit- LGBTQ lobbying organization while leaving out what he calls “mainstream groups” like the Nebraska Catholic Conference.

“And in fact, this group didn't even consult with the chief medical officer of the state of Nebraska or the public health board of the state of Nebraska,” said Ricketts.

Executive Director of Out Nebraska, Abby Swatsworth, counters by saying her organization was one of many contributors asked to weigh in on the proposed standards.

“That included doctors and nurses, social workers, other content experts in the field, and that is how we were involved,” she said.

Swatsworth also says the proposal addresses important needs, especially around inclusivity instruction. She cited a 2018-2019 Youth Risk survey that of the 17% of Nebraska high school students who have seriously considered suicide, 60% identified as LGB.

“And that is not acceptable,” says Swatsworth, “So it's really important that we build a protective environment in our schools that supports all students, and these health education standards really do support student well-being.”

And for school districts that do find the guidelines inappropriate, she says it's worth remembering that they’re only guidelines, and not enforceable.

Nebraska Board of Education President Maureen Nickels says however you feel about the draft proposal it’s just the beginning of a long process.

She encourages parents to read through the entire draft, meditate on how they feel about it and let the Education Department know what they think via an online survey on their website.

"That’s what that’s there for,” says Nickels, “that is your voice and we will listen to your voice."

As for the governor’s comments, Nickels says she is listening to him with an open mind.

“He is a constituent in this state, just like everybody else," says Nickels, "I hope he fills out a survey.”

She expects the board to make a final decision on the standards in November.

A link to the Sexual Education Draft guidelines can be found HERE