Parents Look for Eraser in Austin Sex Ed
Do you want your kids learning about sex from a group of Planned Parenthood pole dancers? Neither do parents in Austin, Texas. The state capital came within inches of adopting the group's middle school curriculum -- but had to scrap it at the last minute when the legislature banned "local governments from doing business with abortion providers." Unfortunately for local parents, what the school district did pass is just as horrifying. And locals have no intentions of taking it sitting down.
It's been over a week since Austin's Independent School District acted independently of local feedback. Despite a sea of protestors and crowds of angry parents, members still voted unanimously to do what almost three-quarters of the parents asked them not to: approve sweeping changes to the district's sex-ed curriculum. And not just any changes, but "LGBTQ-inclusive" changes -- the kind that teaches little girls they might be little boys and questions kids' sexuality. "It's about acceptance," the district's health and physical education supervisor Michelle Rusnak said, waving off parents' concerns.
But acceptance, Matt Pennies argued, shouldn't include conversations about gender identity or anal sex.
"I get the sensitivities around the LGBT issues," he told reporters. "I tried to say this, but I was drowned out by the chaos -- in a strictly heterosexual context, this content is just so aggressive. It's just so much so soon." Graphic lessons about sex acts, he and plenty of others feel, have no place in the classroom. "I just feel like the school district is overstepping... There's no place for the reasonable middle in this conversation, and it really makes me angry that we can't have a more measured conversation."
Measured conversations have been tough to come by these days, as our friends at Texas Values know. During a press conference about the vote, extremists burst into the room "with music, kazoos, and chants," screaming, "Black trans lives matters!" to disrupt the event. The Austin American-Statesman described the chaos, as people waving rainbow flags and one man shouting into a megaphone created such a scene that the Austin police had to intervene.
For now, the school board's vote may be over, but the public outcry is not. As we speak, parents and Texas Values are debating a possible legal challenge. At the same time, they're also demanding answers about the curriculum made its way to the city in the first place. "Parents have a right to know where this radical curriculum came from and who approved it," Mary Elizabeth Castle insisted. It's been a rushed and secretive process, they say, and the majority of input has been ignored. If Austin has nothing to hide, let them prove it.
And thanks to a new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, they'll have no choice but to. The message from Texas Values and the rest of Austin is: Hand over the documents that led to this hyper-sexualization of our curriculum. In particular, the group is trying to uncover any communications about the cancellation of Planned Parenthood's Get Real lessons -- and the decision to pass a controversial Canadian model in less than two months. If the district doesn't cooperate, they'll pursue other options. Already, a petition rejecting the changes has more than 8,000 signatures.
Take it from Austin -- the fight isn't over until parents say it is! If your school district is considering (or even if it's passed) a radical sex ed program, there are options. Don't throw in the towel until you've exhausted every avenue! And even then, there's always one thing you can do: hold the bad school board members accountable in the next election. Or better yet, run for the seat yourself!