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Florida School Board Rejects New Sex-Ed Curriculum

July 23, 2022

Earlier this week, the Miami-Dade School Board voted against adopting two new sex education textbooks for the 2022-23 school year. With a narrow vote of 5-4, the decision followed emotionally charged debate between more than 40 parents and board members. 

The textbooks titled “Comprehensive Health Skills” that come in a version for middle school and high school students, cover topics like nutrition, physical activity, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

One of the parents who spoke out against the contents of the textbooks, Alex Serrano, explained that he had pulled his children out of public school and enrolled them in a private school. He reached this decision after learning that the sex-ed textbooks exposed his children to information that he believes in not appropriate for their age. 

“We are not against sexual education or human reproduction and sexual education books. We are for statutory compliance and age appropriateness in the content … and compliance with parental rights law,” said Serrano.

As a representative for the Miami-Dade chapter for County Citizens Defending Freedom, a right-leaning organization, Serrano added that discussions about gender ideology “do not belong” in the classroom because they are not based on factual or educational information but rather “ideology”.

In March, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed the “Parental Rights in Education” bill prohibiting classroom instruction on sexual education and gender identity for students in kindergarten through grade 3. 

“I am pleased that the board voted to honor the wishes of parents when it comes to talking to children about sex,” said Meg Kilgannon, Family Research Council’s senior fellow for Education Studies. “It has become almost normal for schools and entertainment media to err on the side of providing sexual instruction to children, rather than to hesitate, reflect, and seek permission of parents before broaching this sensitive topic.”

This is not the first time public school textbooks have been questioned. Earlier this year, the Florida Department of Education rejected 54 math textbooks for containing “prohibited topics or unsolicited strategies including critical race theory.”

But some parents passionately disapproved of the school board’s decision to red list the “Comprehensive Health Skills” textbooks. 

In an interview with NBC Miami, Marika Lynch, a mother of three said, “Half of all high school kids have sex before they graduate from high school; that’s not something we’re gonna change. So do we want them to have the best information? Yes. Do I want my kids, who are all pre-teens, to have the best information? Absolutely.” 

Her comments were affirmed by Kate Duesterhaus, a board member of the Florida NOW and Miami Coalition to Advance Racial Equity, who said she was “deeply disappointed” by the vote. 

“I hoped that Miami’s School Board would step up to protect youth in times of crisis. Not only does providing comprehensive sexual education help prevent sexually transmitted diseases, sexually transmitted infections, and unwanted teen pregnancy, it’s also important to building bodily autonomy, which is important for teens to prevent and identify instances of sexual assault,” Duesterhaus argued. 

“Everything in her statement is false,” responded Kilgannon. 

She went on to give an example of how when discussing alcohol and drugs, children are strongly warned about the health effects and told to avoid the addictive substances. 

“But when it comes to sex, seemingly normal adults are willing to accept that it’s inevitable for children to act out sexually, and we as adults should teach them how,” Kilgannon added. “That is not acceptable, not healthy for children, and has nothing to do with ‘building bodily autonomy.’” This kind of sexualized education is its own form of assault and the only thing it prevents is the formation of a mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy child.” 

The school board vote this week is a reversal of that vote that took place in April when 5-3 voted to adopt the textbooks. 

In closing, Kilgannon said, “A win like this in Miami-Dade is a real coup for the parents’ rights movement sweeping the nation. It shows that parents in all walks of life want to protect their children, even their older children, from harmful messages and untruths about human sexuality. Congratulations to the parents who fought this, and they must remain vigilant to make sure their wishes are respected in the future.” 

Deborah Laker serves as a staff writer at The Washington Stand.