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Florida school board rejects 2 sex-ed books after parents voice objections

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Parents are praising a Florida school board after it rejected two textbooks initially slated to be taught as part of the district's sex-ed curriculum for middle and high school students.  

In a 5-4 vote Wednesday, the Miami-Dade County School Board reversed its initial decision to adopt the two textbooks, titled Comprehensive Health Skills for Middle School and Comprehensive Health Skills for High School, as new sex education textbooks for the 2022-2023 school year. 

The vote came after a public meeting where parents and residents were allowed to speak about the textbooks and sex-ed curriculum. Several people were escorted out of the building as a discussion took place about the books' content, the Miami Herald reported.

Parents who opposed the books feel the content about sexual orientation and gender identity were inappropriate and violated Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Bill that was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this year. The legislation prohibits schools from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity with students under certain circumstances and requires schools to inform parents of changes to their child’s well-being. 

The textbooks also included a section on sexually transmitted diseases, gender identity, contraception and abortion, according to CBS Miami

More than 40 community members spoke during the meeting, with many in favor of the books. School board members Christi Fraga and Mari Tere Rojas told the Miami Herland that although all but two community members spoke in favor of the books, that was not reflective of the many emails from parents who voiced their concerns about the textbooks. They contended that the number of people who showed up at the meeting does not necessarily represent how the community as a whole feels about the textbooks, the Herald added. 

Opponents of the books reportedly filed 278 petitions against them, which resulted in a June 8 hearing to address their concerns. The hearing officer recommended at that meeting to “deny the petitions and proceed with the adoption process.” 

Meg Kilgannon, senior fellow for education studies at the socially conservative nonprofit organization Family Research Council, told The Christian Post that she is glad parents of older children are taking this issue seriously. 

“Each individual parent is an expert on their child and what their child is ready to know in terms of where they are in their maturity level to handle that kind of information,” Kilgannon told CP. 

“And there is nothing to stop the parents who have no problem with that curriculum from teaching those things to their children right now,” she added. “With or without that book, they are free to do that. But they absolutely cannot impose it on my child in a classroom setting.” 

Kat Duesterhaus, a board member of the Florida National Organization for Women and the Miami Coalition to Advance Racial Equity, expressed disappointment with the school board’s decision. She told the Herald that she wished the board would “step up to protect youth in times of crisis.” 

“We need to equip youth with the ability to navigate their own bodies and consensual situations,” Duesterhaus said. “We’re leaving them ill equipped to have agency of their sexuality and bodies.” 

Maxx Fenning, president of the LGBT advocacy group PRISM Florida, made similar statements to the Herald. Asserting that comprehensive sexual education “saves lives,” he described the curriculum as necessary to give young people the “tools they need to protect themselves if and when they decide to be sexually active.”

Kilgannon agreed that it's a “human right” for someone to know how their body works, but she advocates for natural family planning, a method that involves monitoring different fertility signals to avoid pregnancy or to help women become pregnant. 

“You have a right to know how your body works. It is fearfully and wonderfully made and it is a real extension of you,” she said. 

“The idea that we can somehow neutrally decide to give sensitive information about human sexuality to children under some blanket understanding of our shared values on human sexuality is just absurd,” she continued. 

Kilgannon noted that the topic at hand is an act so “powerful” that it “literally generates another human into existence.” 

“So I would think that we’d be taking a lot of care around this topic instead of just this idea that children have a right to bodily autonomy or some kind of ridiculous concept that is a word salad that gives them no respect and the dignity of the human person and could be used by adults for our agendas.”

Alex Serrano, who serves as executive director of County Citizens Defending Freedom’s Miami-Dade County affiliate, has voiced concerns about the textbooks, specifically that the books’ content is too explicit. 

“We are not against sexual education or human reproduction and sexual education books,” Serrano insisted. “We are for statutory compliance and age appropriateness in the content ... and compliance with parental rights law.”

He maintained that discussions regarding gender identity “do not belong” in the books, calling it “ideology.” The board removed the chapter titled, “Understanding Sexuality,” which contained the topics of gender identity and sexuality, from both versions of the textbooks back in April.

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