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 testifies on DCPS Health Standards
GAY AND LESBIAN ACTIVISTS ALLIANCE OF WASHINGTON
Fighting for Equal Rights Since 1971
P. O. Box 75265
Washington, D.C. 20013
November 27, 2007
To: Beverley Wheeler
DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education
Dear Ms. Wheeler:
Please accept this letter as our comments on your draft Health Standards, dated October 11, 2007. We regret that we cannot appear in person at the public hearing on November 28.
We strongly support comprehensive sex education for all of the District’s youth. We especially commend your inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity 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-jeopardizing behaviors.” We agree with Advocates for Youth that “the proposed standards include complete, unbiased, comprehensive information regarding nutrition, sexual health and HIV prevention.”
- We agree with the inclusion of this for Grade 6: “Explain that people, regardless of biological sex, gender, ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and culture, have sexual feelings and the need for love, affection and physical intimacy.” Information on gender identity is especially important in light of the range of problems encountered by transgender youth due to ignorance and intolerance.
- We agree that the curriculum for Grade 6 should “explain the benefits of abstinence, postponing sexual behavior, and setting limits on sexual behavior.” Abstinence education is part of a comprehensive approach to teaching 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 until marriage” education excludes gay and lesbian teens, who at present are not allowed to marry in the District of Columbia. When developing a detailed curriculum, care should be taken not to allow the appropriate teaching of responsibility and postponement of gratification to morph effectively into a message that lifelong celibacy is the only option for sexual minority youth.
- We agree that the curriculum for Grade 7 should “discuss the importance of consistent and effective contraceptive use.” Be sure to include information of sufficient detail to be useful.
- We agree with the inclusion of this for Grade 8: “Define sexual orientation, using correct terminology; and explain that as people grow and develop they may begin to feel romantically and/or sexually attracted to people of a different gender and/or to people of the same gender.” Of course, sexual orientation means heterosexuality and bisexuality in addition to homosexuality.
- We agree with the inclusion of this for Grade 8: “Compare and contrast the theories about what determines sexual orientation, including genetics; prenatal, social, and cultural influences; psychological factors; and a combination of all of these.” 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 are confident that you will resist the snake oil being peddled by anti-gay groups. One such group, Focus on the Family, issued an action alert on Nov. 6 quoting Randy Thomas of the notorious group Exodus International as objecting that the new standards “don’t represent people like me, who chose a different way to deal with their same-sex attraction.” That “different way” consists of suppression, denial, and misery.
Please consider the following in developing and implementing a curriculum based on the standards:
- Many years ago, we became discouraged when we learned that most sex education was being done by athletic coaches, who had plenty of biases and no special training. Please ensure that all health educators be specifically trained in the subject.
- 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 is essential to monitor and enforce compliance.
- Information on the intersexed, a little-known and much-misunderstood minority, should be included in Human Growth and Development.
As you know, the D.C. Public Schools have a gay-inclusive anti-harassment policy. But the District’s history of non-discrimination is much longer than that. D.C. has prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation since 1973. The D.C. Human Rights Act now also includes an explicit prohibition of discrimination based on gender identity or expression. D.C. repealed its anti-sodomy law in 1993, a decade before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned all such laws. Gay people were included in D.C.’s Bias-Related Crimes Act of 1989. The District passed its domestic partnership law in 1992, and has expanded the rights and responsibilities of domestic partners in a series of amendments adopted unanimously by the D.C. Council. The inclusiveness of the draft health standards continues this tradition of equality.
Thank you for your consideration of our views, and congratulations on a strong set of draft standards.
Barrett L. Brick
Cc: Robert Bobb, President, DC State Board of Education
Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of DC Public Schools
Deborah Gist, DC State Superintendent of Education
Christopher Dyer, DC Office of LGBT Affairs
Adam Tenner, Metro Teen AIDS
Patricia Hawkins, Whitman-Walker Clinic