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State Board of Education postpones health & sex standards at tense public meeting in La Vista

Posted at 6:49 PM, Sep 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-03 19:49:52-04

LA VISTA, Neb. (KMTV) — With a single vote from the Nebraska State Board of Education, health and sex education standards that would guide Nebraska Public Schools curriculum, are postponed for an unknown period of time.

“The whole process has been over-politicized from the start,” said board member, Patsy Koch Johns.

“This process was tenuous and interrupted from the start. We will do better and we hope our citizens will too.”

While it was a 5-1 vote to postpone the standards, that plan got major pushback from two Omaha-area board members. That includes Jacquelyn Morrison, the lone no vote, who questioned Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt's role in writing the standards, saying she had little to no input and the process was rushed.

“All I wanted was for us to go back and figure it out and create a better process and to get it right. But we’re not going to do that either. We’re going to say health is off the table for now. Because it’s too hard,” said Morrison.

Deborah Neary abstained from voting, openly questioning if the standards would ever be brought back.

She also questioned the process, which involved a four-person committee that neither Morrison nor Neary were on. She said that the NU Board of Regents put together a process that included all regents before its vote on a Critical Race Theory resolution.

She said that process didn't happen with the health standards.

“Instead we left all the decision making to four board members and the commissioner, yet press releases were sent and press conferences were held that appeared to represent all eight members of the Board of Education,” said Neary.

The revised standards include teaching kids about gender identity in the seventh grade, how to consent to touch and sexual activity, as well as defining body parts at earlier ages. At the high school level they also educate children on sexting and child pornography laws.

READ MORE: Department of Education defends new draft of controversial health ed & sex ed standard

Parents would have the option to opt their children out of any sex education classes, just like they currently do.

While the board made the decision before the public could sound off, there were hundreds that spoke during the public comment period with several saying the standards, which could be adopted by public schools, don’t go along with their religious beliefs.

“We need to tell kids and adults the truth. Fornication, adultery, homosexuality is an abomination to God,” said Gwen Easter, an opponent of the standards.

Many are still upset that the board could still pass the standards at a later date.

“I can see there’s no trust amongst you guys, amongst anybody on this board, there’s a lot of mistrust for good reason, so I want to ask every one of you to resign,” said Amber Brown, an opponent of the standards.

Everybody speaking to the board was upset one way or another.

“I’m devastated, I am so hurt,” said Jamie Gould.

With many supporters of sex education in schools telling the board that kids that identify as LGBTQIA+ are more at risk of suicide if they do not hear about it in school.

“I wish when I was in grade school we were taught the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity. That my gender is not the same thing as my genitals and that being transgender has nothing to do with who I choose to be intimate with sexually. And who I am is valid,” said Eli Rigatuso, a supporter of sex education standards.

It appears this issue could go to the Nebraska Legislature, with Senator Rob Clements saying he’s open to changing the law.

“I will support legislation to prevent graphic sexual content from being taught in Nebraska schools,” said Clements.

The health and sex standards could theoretically be brought back next month or be indefinitely postponed.

In order to bring them back, they’ll need a motion from a board member and then the majority of the board to vote to bring back the health and sex education standards.

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