Parents voiced outage and support Thursday night at a school board meeting in a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C. for proposed changes to Fairfax County's sex education curriculum that critics say have been proposed by a committee without the affirmation of parents.
The county's Family Life Education Curriculum Advisory Committee formally recommended changes to the county's sex-ed curriculum that would impact middle school and high school students during a board meeting at Luther Jackson Middle School in Falls Church.
Concerned parents highlighted seven changes that they say are the worst recommendations the committee has made to the curriculum that will be voted on by the school board for final approval after a public comment period ending on June 8.
Parents who spoke at the meeting accused the changes of being part of an agenda pushed by a number of left-leaning political organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the LGBT activist group GLSEN.
The parents say that changes include things such as scrubbing the term "biological sex" from the curriculum, teaching middle schoolers about gender transition but leaving out instruction on the health risks and side effects of hormone therapy, and removing the term "clergy" from a list of "trusted adults."
Five people, including a representative of the Northern Virginia chapter of GLSEN, addressed the board in favor of the proposed changes. Five county residents spoke against the proposed changes.
Parents opposing the changes were vocal in their opposition to the term "biological sex" being redefined in the curriculum as "sex assigned at birth," which advocates say is an LGBT inclusive term and opponents say ignores biological and medical realities.
Parents also voiced a strong opposition to the recommended change to teach ninth-grade students about the daily drug regimen Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), which aims to reduce HIV/AIDS infection.
One parent who spoke during the meeting said that the drug would encourage "risky" sexual behavior and has not been approved by the Federal Drug Administration for use under the age of 18.
In addition, many parents say that under the proposal, students will no longer be taught that "abstinence is the only 100 percent effective method" to prevent sexually transmitted diseases or infections.
Several parents are also concerned that students won't be taught the risks or side effects of contraceptives and that they would lose the right to opt-out their children from lessons on dating.
"We have written you and we have published articles in the public domain. We are trying to sound the alarm about these changes, changes that will not promote the health of our children," speaker Kathleen Gillette-Mallard told the board. "In fact, they could even prove to be fatal.
"For example, the change of biological sex for all FLE lessons and replacing it with sex assigned at birth is false science," she contended. "There are medical omissions too numerous to count. Approval of seventh and eighth grade transgender lessons without the warning of the permanent health risks and side effects. ... This is almost criminal."
Gillette-Mallard continued by stating that PrEP is an HIV regimen "designed for promiscuous adult men and adult women who engage in sex without condoms."
"It is not for children," she said. "It is not for teenagers. In fact, I am sure that this is possibly illegal."
Keith Arthurs, a father with three girls in FCPS, also voiced concern with the change in terminology.
"The FLECAC recommended use of sex-assigned at birth is scientifically incorrect," Arthurs told the board. "The phrase is appropriately used in a very rare context — when a child is born with a very rare ambiguous anatomy. The doctor makes a decision of the best sex assignment in that case and is not the context of FLE."
"In the context of human reproduction and pregnancy prevention, biological sex is the most relevant term and is what is used most in biology medicine and common English. Using 'assigned' is ridiculous since sex of most babies is identified and not assigned," he continued. "Their sex is intrinsically part of them and not decided for them. The use of 'at birth' is ridiculous too since you usually identify a baby's sex earlier than that — on a sonogram. So should we use 'sex identified on sonogram?' I don't think so."
Arthurs asserted that FLECAC made a "bad change" to "support a narrative that transgender people are born with the wrong body at birth."
However, Arthurs stressed that no studies have proven that claim to be true. He added that most long-term studies conclude that "most kids with gender dysphoria don't become transgender adults."
"Even the American [Psychiatric] Association in their latest diagnostic manual DSM-5 cites this fact," he said. "It may be harmful to mislead the kids who are going to desist to imply that they have the wrong body at birth and is going to confuse them."
Arthurs accused the FLECAC of being a "stacked deck of like-minded members appointed because they hold the same ideological view as the majority board members."
Gillette-Mallard argued that the proposed changes are measures that are being pushed by an agenda furthered by LGBT organizations, abortion groups and "Big Pharma."
"These organizations have received millions in private funding," Kathleen-Mallard said. "No matter what you well-intentioned administrators believe, these changes to the FLE programs are designed to push an agenda, an agenda that confuses kids, devastates families and can even ... be fatal."
In a video testimony, teacher Claudia Wilde voiced support for the proposed changes and argued that biological sex should be changed to sex assigned at birth because that is what the LGBT community prefers.
"It is preferred to the older term, biological sex, for a number of reasons. First, members of the transgender community and their families and allies prefer 'sex assigned at birth,'" she said. "If we were to use a different term, we would be erasing those members of our community. Using the [phrase] sex assigned at birth would include the majority of our students without excluding transgender students."
Resident Mary Mathewson also spoke in favor of the changes and defended the recommendation to add instruction on PrEP.
"[The curriculum] does not currently contain objectives addressing PrEP ..., a medication that has a 90 percent success rate of preventing HIV without encouraging the inclination to ignore other preventative measures such as condom use," she said. "We know that young people will engage in risky behaviors. The sense of immorality that is a natural part of development allows young people to believe that many behaviors, including sex, come without consequences."
"We can debate the morality of these behaviors and we can debate the morality of homosexuality versus heterosexuality but students simply will behave in ways that we, much wiser adults, understand have devastating consequences," she added. "We are responsible for protecting our youth — sometimes from themselves. We can't force them to do or not do anything."
Meg Kilgannon, who has three children in FCPS, spoke against the proposal and accused the school board of not seeking parental consent when approving such curriculum changes. Kilgannon also wondered if FLECAC actually debates controversial topics.
"Or is it just a rubber stamp for administrative proposals?" she asked. "The vote totals that you will see, lead me to believe that it is a rubber stamp. We parents hear over and over again that the school board members are not experts and that you rely on the staff for the details. I can understand that. But we are wondering who does the staff rely on?"
It was reported earlier this year that parents were barred from asking question during a FLECAC meeting.
"While the FLECAC meetings are open to the public to attend, it is understood that you are there to observe only and not able to participate in the discussions," parent Hope Wojciech told CP in March.