Early this morning, just after midnight, the Austin Independent School District (AISD) Board of Trustees unanimously approved a new, controversial sex education curriculum to begin in May 2020.
Before the decision, the board listened to comments from over a hundred people. Many in attendance are concerned that the curriculum is too radical.
Many of the proposed lessons center around relationships, puberty, anatomy, reproduction, and STDs, but the curriculum also includes lessons on “gender identity” and “sexual orientation.”
Students in fifth grade will be taught using the diagram of a “genderbread person,” which distinguishes “biological sex,” so-called “gender expression” and “gender identity,” “sexual orientation,” and “romantic attraction.”
Sixth graders will be shown a video about sexual orientation and instructed to think of ways to “challenge homophobia,” such as “attending a pride rally” and “being an ally to someone who identifies as LGBT.”
The curriculum also states that “sex assigned at birth is independent of gender identity.”
Several speakers from Texas Values, a socially conservative advocacy group, were in attendance at the meeting on Monday night in opposition to the proposed curriculum changes.
The organization held a press conference prior to the meeting, which was interrupted by a crowd of protesters playing kazoos. One disruptive protester was detained by police, yelling “black lives matter” and “trans lives matter.”
At the meeting, the vice-president of Texas Values, David Walls, said, “The goal of this curriculum is to promote a radical ideology that is in direct conflict with the values of most parents and families in the district, including my own.”
Walls went on to describe the curriculum as an attack on the Christian community and people of faith, stating that it teaches “children to denounce and challenge fellow students that don’t share their views. The curriculum is an attack on family, on parental rights, on life. It promotes identity confusion by teaching children to dismiss their biological sex. It encourages sexual activity, and it demands that children become advocates in the LGBT political movement. Adoption of this curriculum will send a clear message: people of faith and traditional values are not welcome in Austin ISD.”
Several Republican candidates for State House District 47 were also in attendance in opposition to the curriculum.
One candidate, Jennifer Fleck, had been the first in line to speak on the issue.
“Tonight you might think that your legacy might be inclusion,” Fleck told the board, “but the truth is that confusing a child’s sexuality and gender will provide a legacy of destruction.”
Fellow State House candidates Aaron Reitz and Don Zimmerman also spoke out against the board’s proposal.
The majority of people speaking at the meeting were opposed to the curriculum for similar reasons to Fleck.
One transgender speaker said that the board should postpone the vote since the lessons “are not as inclusive as they could be.”
Some others at the meeting supported the proposal.
Julia Mandel of the Texas Freedom Network, a socially progressive advocacy group, spoke in favor of the new curriculum, saying, “In particular, we strongly support the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in the lessons being discussed today.”
Early next year, Austin ISD teachers will begin training in the curriculum.
In March, school principals will hold “human sexuality and responsibility family orientation meetings” for families to learn more about what is in the curriculum.
Parents will be able to submit opt-out letters if they do not want their children to be taught parts or all of the material.
The deadline for principals to send the opt-out letters to families is April 3, according to agenda details from last night’s meeting.
The new, taxpayer-funded sex education lessons will be taught to elementary and middle-school children beginning in May.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.