The Austin Independent School District in Texas approved revisions to its sexual education curriculum for third- through eighth-grade students during a meeting that started Monday night and ended Tuesday morning due to the number of concerned parents who wanted to give input on the curriculum, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
Although the curriculum was unanimously approved by the board, 126 parents signed up to give their feedback on the changes. The parents were reportedly roughly split between parents speaking against the curriculum, and those who were in favor of it.
Those against the new education plan raised concerns that it gives children too much information at a young age, that it normalizes sexual behavior in children, and that it teaches information about gender identity and expression that runs counter to the beliefs and values of some in the community.
"I get the sensitivities around the LGBT issues," said Matt Pennies, a parent who has daughters in the school district but who has pulled his son out. "I tried to say this, but I was drowned out by the chaos — even in a strictly heterosexual context, this content is just so aggressive. It's just so much, so soon."
There were competing protests surrounding the school board meeting, and one arrest was made.
What's in the lessons?
Much of the curriculum focuses on teaching students about human anatomy and reproductive function. Other sections focus on helping students establish boundaries and learn that their bodies are their own. Students are helped to identify trusted adults with whom they can discuss these topics, whether that includes parents or others.
Students are also taught about puberty and the development of their bodies, and about sexually transmitted diseases.
Beginning in fifth grade, students begin to learn about gender. They're taught the difference between biological sex, gender identity (what gender a person believes themselves to be internally), gender expression (what gender a person expresses himself or herself outwardly), and attraction (what gender/sex a person is attracted to), and the ways those different things may all align or be different.
The College Fix reported that later lessons include graphic and/or realistic role-playing exercises aiming to teach children about "coerced oral sex, promiscuity, and drunk sex."
"The bigger picture is to normalize these behaviors and to teach them to children so that they can feel OK with engaging in these behaviors, but they are not," Caryl Ayala, director of Concerned Parents of Texas, said, according to KVUE-TV. "No child should be engaged in any kind of sexual activity."
Parents do have the choice to opt-out of having their students participate in the sex ed curriculum, or they can attend the classes to monitor what is being taught and how.