NPS rejects 2nd draft of health education standards

NORFOLK, Neb. --  In a 4-1 vote, the Norfolk Public Schools Board of education passed a motion to reject the second draft of health education standards put forward by the Nebraska Board of Education.

It came after a packed Board of Education meeting with members of the Norfolk community coming out to support or reject the second draft of standards. The health education standards have been a hot-button talking point the last few months due to the sexual education portion of the standards. Subjects included sexuality, gender identity, and family structure in the first draft. While many of those subjects were scaled back in the second draft, some subjects have still remained at the upper education levels, and many groups are unhappy with the new standards. 

Those in attendance during Monday's meeting largely split into two camps: those who felt that the standards were not appropriate for school and should be taught at home, and those who felt rejecting standards educating students about different family structures, gender identity and sexuality was creating a hostile environment for LGBTQ+ students.

"Ten years ago I never would have thought I would be speaking at a school board meeting about LGBTQ rights because I used to be like you," Sue Weaver a Norfolk resident said addressing the group in attendance. "I didn't think any part of this discussion was important in school...until my youngest son came out as gay. I was forced to expand my world and learn new things or disown my son, which was not an option. When parents say that sexuality, gender identity should be taught at home...what they're really saying is they don't want to talk about it at all. We don't want our kids to know anything about it, knowledge will corrupt them, knowledge will turn them gay, knowledge will force them to question their sexuality, but this is fear...and it's so far from the truth."

On the opposite side, many individuals talked about the dangers of exposing their children to such topics may cause. One person, Joan Davis discussed her concerns of how topics may lead to sexual abuse and that the standards may become required later in the future. 

"What will keep the state from making it mandatory later?" Joan Davis a concerned grandparent asked. "Any of us, I mean my age, I'm 60 I've been around a while, you see this encroaching of government control. I don't want the state to decide what my grandchildren are going to be taught. I know we are not going to get away from the LGBTQ community or people choosing to live that way. That is their individual choice. All I want to say is that I am against being taught these standards and the effect it will have...we've heard a lot about the bullying and how the other kids will feel, but what about these other kids that have been sexually abused, who have been hurt by other grown-ups, other kids? I think the sexualization is going to encourage sexual activity, this is, again, a big, big concern of mine."

With the decision, NPS will now be creating its own health education standards using feedback from the community and some of the standards put forth by the Nebraska Board of Education. 

"There was some really good standards in the health standards," president of the Norfolk Public Schools Board of Education Sandy Wolfe said. "There were different things that are strong, but there were a lot of things we didn't agree with. We just felt that to maybe to have our community feel a little better that we really want to adopt our own standards. We're going to wait through the process of the state school board, we're going to take the very best of what we want and we're going to get community input and probably have a committee  or task force, but we want to make it the best for Norfolk Public School kids."

A date has not been given on when they will draft these standards.