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School standards teaching gender identity, sexual orientation draws controversy

Posted at 6:37 PM, Mar 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-12 19:37:23-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — It’s time to review and change education standards in Nebraska.

These moments always bring some turbulence and this time around is no exception, particularly around teaching students about gender identity and sexual orientation.

According to the comprehensive 60 page first draft, students in Kindergarten would be taught about same sex couples.

In first grade, gender identity would be defined to students. In third grade, students would learn about sexual orientation and the next year they’d define the difference between gender identity and gender assigned at birth.

Governor Pete Ricketts blasted the health standards portion this week. He said in a statement that they need to scrap it.

“The new standards from the department would not only teach young children age-inappropriate content starting in kindergarten, but also inject non-scientific, political ideas into curriculum standards,” said Ricketts.

On Friday, Nebraska State Board of Education members had a similar message, and that right now, they’re simply listening to Nebraskans.

“I feel like my role right now is to be much more of a listener to people’s thoughts and concerns,” said Patti Gubbels, member of the Board of Education from Norfolk.

Board member Deborah Neary wants people to be specific on what they like and what they want changed.

“What’s going to be helpful if people give feedback that is about specifics so that we really can have production conversations,” said Neary.

Neary said the governor has the right to voice his strong opinions on the standards and that her ears are open to anybody who wants to make the plan better.

“The governor is one of the residents in my district and so I want to listen to him, like I do any parent who has opinions,” said Neary.

The standards are put together by a variety of school administrators, teachers, mental health therapists and medical doctors.

The board will listen to the public, make multiple drafts and then vote in the fall.

“Will I feel really good, or will the department feel really good about the outcome of the process, probably not but that doesn’t mean that I’m right, you're wrong or whatever, that simply means that’s the way it works,” said board member Robin Stevens, of Gothenburg. Maybe most importantly, once the standards are final, it’ll be up to each school district on how they want to implement them, if at all.

“We’re just setting the gold standard on what we’re recommending but no-one is going to be required, no school district is going to be required to set these standards,” said Neary.

You can view the standards yourself, or give your opinion on them in a survey with the department of education.