Nebraska education officials announced July 29 that they have largely scrapped plans for gender identity lessons in public school curriculum after a parents argued the topics weren’t appropriate for children.
The new draft of the proposed sex education standards from the Nebraska Department of Education came after agency officials faced intense criticism from parents, school boards, state lawmakers and Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, who held town hall events to blast the proposal. Opponents flooded a meeting of the Nebraska State Board of Education, an elected board that oversees the agency.
Nebraska currently has no statewide sex education standards. Even if adopted, the proposal would just be recommendations that school districts could use or ignore.
The original draft would have suggested lessons about family structures, including same-gender families, for kindergartners, and a discussion about gender identity and stereotypes for first-graders. Sixth graders would have learned about a range of gender identities, and seventh graders would have been taught about different types of sex and how diseases are transmitted.
Most of those lessons were removed from the new draft, although seventh graders would still be taught that biological sex and gender identity may differ.
In a statement, Ricketts said the new proposed standards “still need improvement” because they teach the concept of gender identity. Ricketts said sex education and similar topics should be addressed at home, not in schools.
“The continued presence of gender ideology in the standards leaves the door open for this material to be expanded either before these draft standards are approved or in future years when these standards are revisited,” Ricketts said.
The debate has stirred strong emotions in Nebraska, a state that has maintained socially conservative policies for decades.
Nebraska still has a one-man, one-woman marriage requirement in the state constitution that voters approved in 2000, even though the U.S. Supreme Court has declared such measures unenforceable. Some state lawmakers have discussed a constitutional amendment to remove that language, but quietly dropped the issue out of concern that voters would reject that effort and put Nebraska in the national spotlight.
The state education board will meet next week to hear public input on the new standards.