Roaring Fork Schools accept new sex ed curriculum; parents threaten to pull children from district as LGBTQ+ advocates speak of life and death issue
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
A fire-brand preacher stormed out, and an LGBTQ+ advocate spoke of life and death in a showdown over sex ed at a crowded and fraught Roaring Forks School District Board meeting this week.
The board on Wednesday approved the new health curriculum, including the controversial sex-ed component, ending months of discussion and speculation about what would ultimately happen with this.
Opponents promised to pull their children from the district, and supporters expressed appreciation for tending to the wellness of the full student body.
The curriculum is intended to provide students the opportunity to expand their physical and personal wellness, social and emotional wellness, and prevention and risk management. It also includes language supporting the needs and inclusivity of gender-expansive and LGBTQ+ students in the district.
According to district officials, with the approval of the curriculum, the district will now have the ability to offer students the opportunity to:
- Ask any questions they have about issues such as puberty, sex, reproduction, and relationships.
- Receive complete, age-appropriate, and medically-accurate information about sexuality.
- Explore issues that interest them related to their sexual development.
- Develop the skills necessary to form healthy friendships and, later, healthy romantic partnerships.
- Have support from caring adults who respect, affirm, and celebrate them for who they are.
The decisive meeting in Carbondale drew a large crowd, including a strong presence from the Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) organization, and many Roaring Fork community members shared their mixed opinions regarding the health curriculum.
“Some of you in this room have the privilege of thinking that this is a simple curriculum change, but for others of us sitting here, we cannot help realize the position you take might be the difference between life and death for children in this valley,” PFLAG member Ashley Stahl said, referencing that sexual education plays a large part in the mental health of those in the LGBTQ+ community.
While the PFLAG organization carried a strong presence throughout the night, the board also heard from a number of critics who showed up to air their opposition to the proposal, including Cornerstone Church Pastor Jim Tarr, who furiously stormed out of the room yelling remarks at board members.
Some opposed to the curriculum said they planned to move their children to a home-school program if the curriculum was approved.
“This could end up accounting for at least 100 children leaving the school system,” Elizabeth Taylor said. “All of this could be averted if Student and Family Services and the board would listen to the stakeholders and seize pushing an agenda that sexualizes our children.”
While opposition to the curriculum has made its presence felt throughout multiple discussions regarding the proposal, school board Director Maureen Stepp said that there is a strong split regarding the new health curriculum.
“I think a misrepresentation is that the majority are opposed to this proposal when, from what I’ve heard, it’s more evenly split,” she said.
With the board’s approval, Student and Family Services will now dive deeper into the proposed scope and sequence that will detail the learning topics held within the curriculum for each age range.
During a May 9 discussion of the proposal, Chief of Student and Family Services Anna Cole shared the district’s initial plan as to what students grades K-12 would be learning via the approved health curriculum:
- Grades K-4: Personal safety; healthy relationships; basic anatomy/physiology.
- Grades 5-6: Personal safety; identity/healthy relationships; anatomy/physiology; puberty
- Grades 7-8: Personal safety/online safety; identity/healthy relationships
- Grades 9-12: Personal safety; identity; puberty/adolescent development; pregnancy/reproduction; sexually transmitted diseases; healthy relationships; sexual orientation/behavior/identity
For those not comfortable with their children being involved in the approved health curriculum, an opt-out option will be available for all Roaring Fork families.
The proposed health curriculum will enter the district’s curriculum in a pilot year starting in the 2023-24 school year.
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