AUSTIN (KXAN) — Early Tuesday morning, Austin Independent School District’s board unanimously approved a controversial new sex-education curriculum.
The curriculum spans grades three through eight. Under the new curriculum, for the first time, the district will teach students about gender identity and sexual orientation. The lessons will also help kids identify an adult they can trust; plus talk to them about options if they get pregnant, and seventh graders would learn how to use a condom.
At the school board meeting Monday, the two groups held dueling rallies outside school district headquarters.
Demonstrators first showed up for rally organized by Texas Values, which opposes the proposed changes.
Supporters repeatedly interrupted it, causing Austin ISD police to arrest transgender woman Naomi Wilson, who’s now accused of trespassing, according to her friends.
Those supporters include Informed Parents of Austin, a group of AISD parents advocating for “policies in the Austin Independent School District that pertain to the LGBTQ community.” The group’s mission also includes working to “counter the efforts of any group which has a mission of removing anti-bullying and equality policies from AISD.”
Matt Shead is part of the group’s executive team and believes the proposed curriculum creates an inclusive environment and informs students on what to expect.
“I think it’s really important that our sex-ed curriculum talks about the biology of our body parts, what’s coming down the line when we hit puberty, healthy communication and outline what a healthy relationship looks like,” he said.
Shead said these conversations are already taking place in his household and would like for everyone to be on the same page.
“I want to know the administration, teachers, parents all have the same language that we are using to talk about these things to minimize confusion,” he added.
Opponents have been very vocal about where they stand. The Director of Concerned Parents of Texas Carol Ayala said she worried the proposed curriculum will expose students to sex acts they don’t yet know about.
“(The curriculum) encourages minor children to engage in vaginal, oral, and anal sexual activity through the comprehensive sex ed they’re voting on,” she said.
The organization which kicked off in April 2017 is described as a group of “parents, grandparents, educators, and community members who are against the radical sex-ed and LGBT agenda being introduced to children as young as 4 through “anti-bullying,” “relationship education” and school sex-ed curricula.” The group also states that they believe, “parents have the right to give our children the right message about sex.”
While not everyone is against sex-ed in the classroom, some parents like MJ Alvardo believe some of the subject matter is not age-appropriate.
“I’m concerned because the curriculum is very advanced and some parents feel that it is not age-appropriate,” she said. “It introduces and normalizes advance sexual behaviors to children at a very young age and perhaps places ideas in their mind that might not have been there before and can potentially lead to some early and unhealthy sexual behaviors.”
AISD leaders said, parents will have the option to opt their children out from the sex-ed curriculum lessons.
“Please take the time to look at the lessons to make a decision about what’s right for you and your family and your child,” Kathy Ryan, the director of academics at the district said.
Ryan said that while the district is working on overhauling its current curriculum, the board has already approved the scope and sequence, “these are just lessons that align with that scope and sequence.”
Ryan also said the district will make abstinence a priority.
“That is what we are talking about first,” Ryan said. “On lessons where that topic may come up it is something where the teacher will be talking about first upfront — abstinence is the best policy.”
The new curriculum could be taught as early as May 2020.