Photo credit: Stacy Washington, Stacy on the Right
Photo credit: Stacy Washington, Stacy on the Right

Last night the Parkway School District, despite strong opposition from parents in the district, narrowly approved the new “comprehensive sex education” program being considered for their health curriculum. Board members Deborah Hopper and Sam Sciortino and Board President Chris Jacob voted against the revised curriculum. In addition to promoting inclusion of various sexual identities, the program strayed from teaching sexual abstinence.

Last month I was contacted by a parent in the Parkway School District who was very concerned about the district’s proposed new sex education curriculum.  She was looking for help in following the money to find who could be funding the push for the new curriculum. Following the money is particularly difficult. Funding for sex education programs comes through a diverse system but can often be traced back to either the federal government or private wealthy donors. Identifying the original source of funding for such programs can be quite difficult as the money path is (purposely) convoluted.

What I could offer that parent then was a possible impetus for the district’s desire to move in this direction.

Driving factors

Districts may be looking to change their sexuality education policies and curriculae in response to a 53 page guidance document  issued by the US Department of Education in April 2014 which provided guidelines extending federal civil rights protections to transgender students. The letter states:

“Under Title IX, federally funded schools must ensure that students of all ages are not denied or limited in their ability to participate in or benefit from the school’s educational programs or activities on the basis of sex. A school violates a student’s rights under Title IX regarding student-on-student sexual violence when the following conditions are met: (1) the alleged conduct is sufficiently serious to limit or deny a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the school’s educational program, i.e. creates a hostile environment; [emphasis added]  and (2) the school, upon notice, fails to take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the sexual violence, eliminate the hostile environment, prevent its recurrence, and, as appropriate, remedy its effects.”

One method of eliminating what might be perceived as a hostile environment and preventing its recurrence, is to train students to think of LGBTQ as perfectly normal. Accommodations by schools for bathroom or locker room access would further normalize such behavior or choices. This is only one possible response to the federal document, and not necessarily the most legally correct one.

Alliance Defending Freedom, an alliance-building legal organization that advocates for the right of religious students to freely exercise their rights to speak, associate, and learn on an equal basis with other students, provided the Hillsboro MO school district with a legal analysis of federal statute associated with the question of  the rights of transgendered students with regards to bathroom access.

They stated “(1) no federal law requires public schools to open sex-specific restrooms, showers, and changing areas to opposite-sex students, (2) providing such access violates the fundamental rights of the vast majority of students and parents, and (3) schools have broad discretion to regulate the use of school restrooms, showers, and changing areas.”

It should be noted in ADF’s letter notes  “federal regulations make clear that significant guidance documents issued by executive agencies are ’non-binding [in] nature’ and should not be ‘improperly treated as legally binding requirements.’ 72 Fed. Reg. 3432, 3433, 3435 (Jan. 25, 2007). The Department’s significant guidance document therefore does not bear the force of law… If, as may be the case, the Department begins treating the guidance document as a binding rule applicable to all school districts and enforces the guidance document against school districts, then it is likely that the Department has violated the Administrative Procedures Act, which requires a federal agency to go through a formal rulemaking process before it implements and enforces binding rules.”

Who is funding the new standards?

Since the Nixon administration, we have had Title X which funds the Department of Health and Human Services. The Teen Pregnancy Prevention program (TPP) is a HHS program which provides grants to “intermediary organizations that will provide capacity building assistance (CBA) to at least 3 youth-serving organizations to replicate evidence-based Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) (Tier 1 A) programs in a defined service area with demonstrated need.” Such organizations could include school districts as “state agencies.” In 2015 $5m was allocated to such programs by the federal government.

Private donations from groups like the Rockefeller or Ford Foundation have also been used to fund this type of program. Other individuals who have been known to fund CSE programs are billionaire Paul Singer –wall street vulture capitalist and Daniel Lobe of  The Arcus Foundation.

Almost $530m annually is paid to Planned Parenthood from the federal government through Health Services Grants and Reimbursements.  PP provides programs like Chat/Text offering free sexual advice to teens and young women. They are advocates for comprehensive sexuality education and promote the National Sex Education Standards which were developed by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) in their leadership program.   SIECUS’s goal is to eventually extinguish all funding for abstinence based sexuality education.

The UN is also pushing these same standards. Quoting UNESCO‘s ―International Guidelines on Sexuality Education, Dr. MiriamGrossman, author of You’re Teaching My Child What? stated, “One of the learning objectives [of sexuality education] is to ―change social norms. [Those who advocate for comprehensive sexuality education] envision a world without sexual taboos and restrictions—a world free of Judeo/Christian morality where each individual, regardless of age, should be free to make his or her own sexual choices … and no judgment [is] allowed … It‘s an ―anything goes as long as you use a condom philosophy of sex education. You can see how this type of curriculum supports the changes recommended by the USDED for district LGBTQ policies. See Family Watch International’s report  Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Sexual Rights vs. Sexual Health  

Teen Advocates for Sexual Health (TASH) is a local group sponsored by Planned Parenthood which seeks to promote this Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE). They are currently pushing legislation in MO (SB672) that would diminish the promotion of abstinence and remove the prohibition against using curriculum or materials created by any organization that provides abortions. Currently the law states,

RsMO 170.015 (8) 7. “No school district or charter school, or its personnel or agents, shall provide abortion services, or permit a person or entity to offer, sponsor, or furnish in any manner any course materials or instruction relating to human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases to its students if such person or entity is a provider of abortion services.”

Liberty Council, a non-profit litigation, education, and policy organization, confirmed this reading of the proposed Parkway curriculum in a letter sent to Superintendent Dr. Keith Marty on February 17, 2016. ”

Richard Mast Jr. stated in the letter, “I have reviewed the curriculum and must caution the District that if it adopts the Curriculum, it will violate Missouri law due to the involvement of Planned Parenthood and other organizations that provide and promote abortions.” There are plenty of detailed citations in the letter that move it beyond pure opinion.

Should we be normalizing transgenderism?

While it is perfectly understandable that Parkway should choose to review a curriculum after 8 years, it does not automatically follow that they should adopt the comprehensive sexuality education they appear to have chosen. The science is not settled on transgenderism in particular. There is still considerable doubt about how best to address feelings of gender confusion in young children. The statistics show a tremendously high suicide rate for transgendered people (41+%) that cannot be accounted for solely by societal rejection or bullying. If that were a valid argument, the freed blacks who experienced extreme racism in the south during Jim Crowe laws would have had a similarly high suicide rate which they did not. There is something else going on with those who experience gender confusion.

Dr. Paul R. McHugh, the former psychiatrist-in-chief for Johns Hopkins Hospital and its current Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry, said that transgenderism is a “mental disorder” that merits treatment, that sex change is “biologically impossible,” and that people who promote sexual reassignment surgery are collaborating with and promoting a mental disorder. [Read more here] Studies have shown that 80% of children who exhibit gender confusion spontaneously lose those feelings in a few years. McHugh believes their “assumption” that they are different from the body they have is no different than the anorexic who looks at their skeletal body in the mirror and sees fat.

If a school’s health program is going to teach kids all about transgenderism in an effort to prevent bullying and eliminate a hostile environment, they should also teach in as much depth about schizophrenia, bi-polarism, kinesthesia and epilepsy. These other far more common mental conditions which cause a person to experience a different reality from everyone else and/or display outward symptoms that can also be used by the school bullies as a weapon.

Comprehensive Sex Education is not backed by science

CSE is built on the concept that arming children with knowledge will prevent poor decisions about sex. An age appropriate assessment of the curriculum would take into account that the pre-frontal cortex, the area of the brain that performs executive functions like decision making, is not fully developed until age 25.  The PFC acts as a gatekeeper to impulsive actions. Impulsive inter-temporal choice refers to the tendency to forego a large but delayed reward and to seek an inferior but more immediate reward. That is why children, even though they may be armed with all sorts of good information, continue to make bad decisions if they perceive that there could be immediate reward, even if it is small. They know cookies have a lot of calories that could make them fat or reduce their hunger, and they know mom will serve dinner in an hour, but they will still eat a cookie if they think they can get away with it.

CDC statistics indicate this is happening in St. Louis  where teaching about sexually transmitted diseases, combined with a permissive presentation about sex, where we teach our children that “only you [the child] can know what is right for you and when” has led to soaring rates of sexually transmitted disease. In children who can barely talk to each other except through a hand held device, stopping an intimate act to ask someone to put on a condom is not likely to happen. St. Louis is practically ground zero in this country according to the CDC for STDs.  We are #1 in chlamydia and #2 in gonorrhea.

Proponents of CSE give it credit for reducing teenage pregnancies. But the decline in teen pregnancies began in the 1980’s.  Researchers are not able to pinpoint exactly why TPs have been declining, but they site two possibilities: Teens are having less sex, or using more contraceptives. A National Survey of Family Growth done in 1995 showed that teens were have less sex then as well as using more contraceptives. Researchers say the recent trends in sexual activity and contraceptive use are the result of a confluence of factors, including: greater emphasis on abstinence, more conservative attitudes about sex, fear of AIDS, the popularity of the long-lasting methods, such as the contraceptive implant (Norplant®) and the injectable (Depo Provera®), and even the economy. Most recently the decline in sexual activity has been attributed to the ready availability of pornography on the internet for young males, combined with the fear of rape allegations from wildly unpredictable young women, which drives them to forgo actual human interaction. Researchers do not mention CSE as a source for the declining statistics.

Much of this shows that arming young children with all this information, even if it is medically accurate and neutrally presented, is a waste of time which, in the public school system, equates to a waste of money as well.  Without binding federal requirements to move in this direction, districts do not have to make the decision Parkway just did. The message from the Board is now clear; local parents and experts don’t matter.

Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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