Sen. Matt Williams: NDE Health Standards Cannot Undermine Parental Rights

In his most recent column, Sen. Matt Williams reiterated that he will continue to oppose the original draft for the proposed Human Growth and Development Standards from the Nebraska Department of Education. Sen. Williams, whose district (36) includes the northern portion of Buffalo County, Dawson County, and Custer County, said in his column that the original draft undermines parental rights and centers on explicit and inappropriate subject matter.

The original draft calls for teaching children as young as first grade about gender identity and gender stereotypes and progresses into the sixth grade where they would learn sexual and gender identity. Sen. Williams is not the only senator against the original draft for the health standards. In fact, over 30 senators signed a letter opposing the standards including Gov. Pete Ricketts.

In a press release in March, Gov. Ricketts said, “The new standards from the department would not only teach young children age-inappropriate content starting in kindergarten, but also inject non-scientific, political ideas into curriculum standards.” Ricketts also added that, “…many of the new themes are sensitive topics that should be addressed by parents at home and not by schools.”

While against the health standards, Sen. Williams addressed a letter sent to multiple school boards across the state where senators called on school boards to adopt a local resolution rejecting the proposed standards. He noted that “our education system needs to be rooted in both parental rights and local control and those who are closest to issues are best equipped to solve them.” He argued that it was inappropriate for a State Senator to “tell” local officials what to do.

Sen. Williams concluded his letter by applauding those who have become involed in the issue and also called on the State Board of Education to hold public meetings to allow for additional public input on a redraft. He noted if the State Board of Education fails in responding to the outpouring of concern expressed by the public, the Legislature may have to step in.

Read the entire letter below:

Greetings District 36. Over the past several weeks my office continues to receive many contacts expressing dissatisfaction with the proposed Human Growth and Development Standards that were originally drafted by the Nebraska Department of Education.

It’s encouraging to see so many engage in this process to improve the draft standards that have been proposed. I want to make clear that I oppose the original draft standards and will continue to do so as long as they undermine parental rights and center on explicit and inappropriate subject matter that has no place in our schools.

Recently, a letter signed by several State Senators was sent to school boards across the State that called on school boards to adopt a local resolution rejecting the proposed Health Education Standards. The letter was a tough one for me because I believe that our education system needs to be rooted in both parental rights and local control. Those who are closest to issues are best equipped to solve them. I believe it is inappropriate for a State Senator to “tell” our locally elected officials what to do.

The original draft standards were released for public input in March. The State Board of Education, a statewide elected governing board for the Department of Education, rejected the proposed standards and sent them back to the Department of Education. While I strongly oppose the original draft, I want this process to have an opportunity to succeed, with the State Board of Education and our local school boards fulfilling their role, based on public input, and I want the same for the legislative process.

When the new draft standards are released, I think the State Board Education should hold public meetings to allow for additional public input on a redraft, allowing the process to proceed. Likewise, local school boards should be given the opportunity to review any revisions to get input from parents of the children in the schools they serve. Should the State Board of Education ultimately fail to respond to the outpouring of concern expressed by the public, then I believe the Legislature clearly has a role.

I’m very pleased that many local residents have become involved with this issue. Being engaged in the education of our kids is vital for the long term health of our education system. Local school board members volunteer their time and work hard. It is clear they listen to the concerns of the parents and taxpayers of their district. Working together we can find solutions. I hope we can all see the common ground we share in our positions on this important issue.

As always, feel free to contact me anytime at (402) 471-2642 or mwilliams@leg.ne.gov. Thanks again for your continued support.

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