- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Fairfax County Public Schools System is preparing to add “gender identity” to its family life curriculum for grades 7 through 12, less than a week after the school board voted to include gender identity in its nondiscrimination policy over parental objections.

The school board on Monday made public a new Family Life Education Committee report recommending the addition of gender identity to its curriculum agenda, starting for seventh-graders.

Students “will be provided definitions for sexual orientation terms heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality; and the gender identity term transgender,” according to the proposed agenda for grade 7.

The new eighth-grade agenda states that students “will identify … that development of individual identity occurs over a lifetime and includes the component of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Individual identity will be described as having four parts — biological gender, gender identity (including transgender), gender role and sexual orientation (including heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual). The concept that sexuality is a broader spectrum also will be introduced.

Last week, many county residents voiced outrage over the board’s policy change without first consulting parents. The amended policy could require mixed-gender bathrooms and locker rooms in schools.

At a heated school board meeting last Thursday, board members assured parents that the gender identity policy would simply provide language to protect transgender students and faculty from harassment and that the school district’s day-to-day operations would not change because of the new policy.

“There seems to be confusion in the audience. This is not about change. Misinformation and fear about [changing] bathroom or locker room policy is simply not true. It is just an update,” board member Megan McLaughlin said during the meeting.

Andrea Lafferty, a mother of a former school district student and president of the Traditional Values Coalition, said she and other parents feel that the school board has lied to them.

“This is exactly what we warned would happen. The Fairfax County School Board claimed nothing would change. Parents teach their children this type of deception is called lying,” Ms. Lafferty said.

School board spokesman John Torre said that last week’s vote was unrelated to the proposed curriculum changes, but he did not say if the board had knowledge of the committee’s plans.

“They have been working on the curriculum recommendations for over a year and, following extensive discussion and debate, the committee approved unanimously all of their recommended changes, with one exception,” Mr. Torre said. “Parents have been able to opt their students out of [family life] designated lessons in the past and will continue to have that ability under the committee’s recommendations — including the sexual orientation and gender identity lessons.”

However, most of the new agenda items will be moved from the family life curriculum into the health curriculum, which means that parents will not be able to opt their children out of the lessons.

(Corrected paragraph:) Elizabeth Schultz, the only board member who voted against the policy change, said no explanation was given as to why the committee could not keep all of its curriculum under family life to allow parents to opt their children out.

“I asked if we could leave all of this material in the family life education component of children’s education, and the answer is ‘we can.’ And if we can then why wouldn’t we? It would appear to me, the only reason to do something like that is to limit a parent’s voice,” Ms. Schultz said, adding that the board and the committee were engaging in opaque leadership.

The board will introduce the changes at its next business meeting on May 21. Parents can sign up May 18 for slots to voice concerns at the meeting. The agenda changes will be up for public comment from May 21 until June 19, and the board will vote on the changes on June 25.

Fairfax County is the largest school district in Virginia and the 10th largest in the nation, with more than 185,000 students.

• Kellan Howell can be reached at khowell@washingtontimes.com.

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