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Department of Education defends new draft of controversial health ed & sex ed standards

Posted at 11:01 AM, Jul 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-30 01:34:53-04

The Nebraska Department of Education held a press conference to detail the second draft of the Nebraska Health Education Standards.

The Department was quick to admit that public input played a key part.

"Folks need to find common ground, this is a very divisive time, across a lot of different topics," Nebraska Commissioner of Education Matt Blomstedt said. "Our students are going to be starting school this fall right and we've had a lot of distractions relative to that so I do see it as a reset."

Blomstedt defends the second draft of the standard. This version makes little reference to sexual and gender identity. It also removed sex education as part of the proposed curriculum for students from Kindergarten through high school.

"The politics reflect the conversations that we have to have to serve our students best, and finding that balance is really going to be more helpful to solving that and addressing those types of issues for our schools and our communities and kids than worrying about whether I caved to political pressure or the Board does," Blomstedt said.

In a statement to 3 News Now, advocacy organization OutNebraska says in part: "The proposed health standards have largely omitted the reality of LGBTQ+ youth and families."

Blomstedt says setting these standards will not solve these issues.

"We're gonna have this challenge whether we adopt these standards or not right, I think the important work we have to do is continue to work with adults to understand those students who might be left out," Blomstedt said.

State Sen. Megan Hunt says Nebraska needs a curriculum that works for all students.

"Are we going to listen to the opinions of politicized, inexperienced people in the Legislature who actually aren't qualified to do anything about deciding curriculum for kids or are we going to listen to the experts and the American Medical Association and the American Pediatric Association who say comprehensive sex education is what kids need," Hunt said.

Ultimately, Hunt believes parents need to trust educators to give medically accurate, age-appropriate information.

"Parents don't necessarily have all that information, we don't expect parents to teach kids math or geography or physical education," Hunt said. "Instead, we want our parents to be there to support kids and support their children, most parents are asking for this."

Even with the revisions Gov. Ricketts and the Nebraska Catholic Conference say they still have some issues with the second draft that need to be addressed.

Some of the subjects covered in the proposed standards include:

  • Bullying prevention
  • Violence prevention
  • Fire prevention
  • Health education
  • Multicultural education
  • Character education

Watch the press conference below or on the 3 News Now Facebook page.

The Nebraska Department of Education will be seeking input from the public. We've embedded a document with the proposed changes below if you wish to read it in its entirety.

You may also open the health education standards here.

There were a few immediate reactions to the updated health education draft.


We are deeply disappointed to learn that the second draft of the proposed health standards have largely omitted the reality of LGBTQ+ youth and families. A recent study by the Trevor Project suggests that as many as 1 in 4 young people identify as non-binary.

Nebraska schools need to be welcome, safe spaces for all students. This erasure does nothing to protect LGBTQ+ students. The fact that LGBTQ+ people exist should not be controversial. We will continue to advocate for medically accurate, inclusive standards for our community.
Abbi Swatsworth, Executive Director OutNebraska

Gov. Pete. Ricketts

While this new draft of the health education standards scraps many of the topics Nebraskans found objectionable, the standards still need improvement...For example, this draft proposes to teach the concept of ‘gender identity.’ The continued presence of gender ideology in the standards leaves the door open for this material to be expanded either before these draft standards are approved or in future years when these standards are revisited.

“Sex education and other controversial topics should be addressed at home. This responsibility should not be shouldered by teachers in schools.”
Gov. Pete Ricketts

Nebraska Catholic Conference and Nebraska Alliance

Parents and educators across the state delivered a clear message to the NDE and State Board of Education: children belong to their parents and guardians, not the Nebraska Department of Education.

The Nebraska Catholic Conference and Nebraska Family Alliance appreciate the strong voices of parents throughout this process. Their leadership and advocacy led to the removal of significant portions of the ideologically driven and ill-conceived content in the first draft of the NDE’s Health Standards. The newly released second draft rightly acknowledges the fundamental role of parents and guardians as the first educator of their children. Furthermore, the new draft shows deference to local control in a way that is fitting and proper.

However, issues remain in the new draft of these standards that must be addressed. We will spend more time with this draft and provide specific, constructive feedback to the Department of Education and State Board of Education.

Nebraska Catholic Conference and Nebraska Family Alliance

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