By Associated Press - Wednesday, October 21, 2015

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - People objecting to emergency contraception, abortion and gender identity as new topics for the Omaha schools sex education curriculum clashed at a forum with people who support adding the material to the curriculum.

An estimated 1,000 people attended Tuesday’s public meeting about the subject. Some people yelled questions to district officials about the proposed curriculum updates, and some said such material should be topics for the home, not the classroom.

The meeting finally ended when opponents and supporters exchanged shouts and shoves. Police quickly stepped in to break up the crowd.

Several attendees said rumors about the sex curriculum update circulated online leading up to the event. Social media posts, informational sessions hosted by churches and community organizations and a recent hearing about comprehensive sex education in the state Legislature fueled interest from both supporters and opponents of sex education.

Opponents warned that comprehensive sex education could start as early as kindergarten and would encourage, or even promote, teenage sex.

The school district handed meeting attendees a list of frequently asked questions that addressed misinformation. The sheet stated that lessons would start in fourth grade and that Planned Parenthood would not be involved in formulating the new curriculum. The district also said it would encourage abstinence, and that it would not hand out birth control or take students to get abortions.

“It’s really frustration that we’re seeing propaganda being distributed this evening,” said Kasey Hesse, a volunteer with the Women’s Fund of Omaha, which has assisted the school district with the curriculum review.

Opponents of the district curriculum passed out pamphlets and picketed on a sidewalk near the district building before the meeting. Those in support of the changes pointed to Douglas County’s climbing chlamydia rates to justify the need for updated lessons.

“There’s been a lot of news about increased STD rates, HIV in young people,” Jordan Delmundo, who supports comprehensive sex education, said. “They are not being well prepared and isn’t it our responsibility as citizens to prepare them to be healthy adults?”

The school district stressed that no curriculum has been finalized. District officials said they would collect and review all feedback from the meeting.

Dr. Karen Spencer-May, the district supervisor of human growth and development, said their sexual education policy drew few critics until Tuesday.

“Except when we decided to change the curriculum, we really haven’t had those calls,” Spencer-May said. “Parents were pretty OK with what we were doing. This is not going to be that different.”

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