DCPS Draft Health Learning Standards 07/02/07
Safety Monitor (Metro Weekly) 08/02/07
D.C. drafts gay-inclusive sex ed plan (The Washington Blade) 07/27/07
Readers Speak Out About New Sex-Education Curriculum (The Washington Post) 07/19/07
The Wide Spectrum Of Sex-Ed Courses (The Washington Post) 03/18/07
Health chief assumes control of AIDS office (The Washington Blade) 01/12/07
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GLAA comments on draft Health Learning Standards
GAY AND LESBIAN ACTIVISTS ALLIANCE OF WASHINGTON
Fighting for Equal Rights Since 1971
P. O. Box 75265
Washington, D.C. 20013
August 2, 2007
Ms. Michelle Rhee, Chancellor
District of Columbia Public Schools
825 N. Capitol St, NE
Washington, DC 20002
Dear Chancellor Rhee:
We are writing to commend you and the D.C. Public Schools for your draft “Health Learning Standards” dated July 2, 2007, and specifically for their inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identification as part of what the introduction calls “the knowledge and skills that students need to maintain and improve their health and wellness, prevent disease, and reduce health-related risk behaviors.”
For detailed recommendations, we commend you to the submission from the DC Healthy Youth Coalition, an alliance of numerous groups such as Whitman-Walker Clinic, Metro Teen AIDS, and the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League, who have extensive experience with youth health issues. We would like to suggest some general considerations to keep in mind in developing and implementing a curriculum based on the standards:
- Where there is an established scientific consensus, that consensus is
what should be taught. Anti-gay organizations routinely manufacture bogus
controversies and then demand that schools “teach the controversy” in the
name of balance. That is not balance but miseducation, and must be
resisted. So-called “reparative therapy” is no more based on sound science
than “intelligent design,” and amounts to the establishment of religion by
a back door. Homosexuality is recognized as a normal variant of human
sexuality by such leading professional organizations as the American
Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association, and
that normality should not be treated as seriously in dispute based upon the
pseudoscience of socially intolerant right-wing groups.
- We support your inclusion of abstinence education as part of a
comprehensive approach to the teaching of sexual health. This is quite
different from the federal “abstinence-only until marriage” policy, which
studies have shown does not deter teen sex. Furthermore, “abstinence only”
education excludes gay and lesbian teens, who at present are offered no
prospect of marriage. Please take care, when developing a detailed
curriculum, not to allow the appropriate teaching of responsibility and
postponement of gratification to morph into what amounts to a message to
sexual minority youth that lifelong celibacy is their only option.
- Health modules should include information of sufficient detail to be
useful. This means specific information on the use of condoms and other
methods of contraception.
- Experience has taught us that individual teachers and especially
principals often impose their own whims and prejudices and disregard DCPS
policy. For this health education program to be successful, it will be
important to monitor and enforce compliance.
- The D.C. Human Rights Act and DCPS’s own anti-harassment policy have
already established a standard of equality regardless of sexual
orientation. This principle should be taken to heart in the educational
context as well. For example, in the eighth grade module on “the theories
about what determines sexual orientation,” it should be made clear at the
outset that this means heterosexuality and bisexuality in addition to
- Information on gender identity and transgender people should be expanded,
especially in light of the range of problems encountered by transgender
youth due to ignorance and intolerance.
- Information on the intersexed, a little-known and much-misunderstood minority, should be included in Human Growth and Development.
In general, we agree with Jeremy Ogusky, deputy director of Metro Teen AIDS, who praised the draft standards for being well written and based in comprehensive sex education. As always, how the standards are put into practice will be crucial, but you have made a good beginning. Thank you for your attention, and best of luck.
Barrett L. Brick
Cc: Hilda L. Ortiz, Chief Academic Officer
Gloria L. Benjamin, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction
Barbara Rockwood, Executive Director of Athletics, Health/Physical Education
Deborah Gist, DC State Superintendent of Education