This week, the Board of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) voted unanimously to approve the finalized version of the radical new Comprehensive Health and Physical Education Framework.
We suspected they would approve the Framework eventually. But was a good-faith effort to take public comment into consideration and accommodate parental concerns really too much to ask? It seems so, when you’re dealing with activists.
Since June, MFI has been sounding the alarm about the dangerous and destructive sexual and gender ideologies promoted by DESE’s proposed Comprehensive Health and Physical Education Framework. DESE followed their release of the draft Framework with a 60-day public comment period, and we encouraged MA residents to contact DESE to let them know what they thought of the proposed changes.
According to documents released in advance of the vote to adopt the Framework, during the public comment period DESE received over 5,500 public comments. This total included 2,910 emails/mail that expressed opposition to the proposed learning standards. That MASSIVE number of opposing comments does not include the people who also expressed opposition to the Framework through DESE’s own survey! Far from being a ringing endorsement of the new standards, respondents to DESE’s own self-favorable survey expressed modest support for some areas of the Framework and a rejection of other areas.
In other words, the majority of people who submitted public comments did not approve of the Framework. Shockingly, the state Board of Education passed it anyway during a meeting that featured very little discussion and no meaningful recognition of the parental concerns.
In the areas of sexuality and gender identity, NO standards were removed (or even bumped to an older age recommendation) as a result of heartfelt parental concerns about the dangers of exposing young children to unscientific, confusing ideologies, or the violation of the religious beliefs of families who hold to traditional values on human sexuality. In fact, DESE added some revisions that made the Framework even worse. Many of the standards pertaining to gender identity that were formerly clearly listed under the topic “Gender, Sexual Orientation, and Sexual Health” are now smuggled into other topics like “Healthy Relationships” and “Public, Community, and Environmental Health.” They also changed the way that the grade ranges for each standard were labeled, but they didn’t change the actual grades the standards were recommended for. So essentially, they made the final version of the Framework even less transparent.
Instead of removing the standards that parents felt were inappropriate or dialing back on the overt focus on gender ideology, they doubled down on ideologically-loaded terminology. The new document that was finally adopted actually includes MORE language related to “identities,” “all bodies,” and “belonging!”
In their Summary of Public Comment Received and the Department’s Responses, DESE defended their sexuality and gender identity-related standards by pointing to their alignment with the National Sexuality Education Standards (a document produced by CSE activists). They promised to provide guidance, training and other supports and resources for teachers to help them learn “best practices in teaching sexuality education.” They reminded parents that “Both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledge and affirm gender identity as an important part of effective patient care.” And they told parents that state law “gives parents the right to opt out their children from lessons related to sex education, a small portion of the knowledge covered in this framework.”
By approving these standards, DESE told concerned parents that they would NOT honor their right to direct their children’s moral formation in the area of sexuality and gender identity. We are supposed to believe that the folks at DESE are the experts, and parents should put their personal beliefs aside and trust them. They made a point to remind parents that they have the legal right to opt out of sex education, but that their opt-out only covers a portion of what is in the Framework.
The bottom line? DESE disregarded the valid concerns of thousands of parents (and taxpayers). Now, local school officials will feel more pressure than ever to feed the almost 900,000 students enrolled in MA public schools a diet of unbiblical, unscientific ideology about human sexuality.
Yesterday’s vote is yet another reminder that the MA public schools are becoming increasingly hostile to the rights of parents and the beliefs of families of faith.
Parents of MA public school students, we need you to take action. Find out what changes your school district plans to make as a result of the approval of the new Framework. Will your child’s school be revising its curriculum? If so, when? Is there an opportunity for parents to give input on any changes? Is your district already using these standards? If they are, what does that look like at your child’s grade level? And if you haven’t submitted your opt out letter yet, do it today.
If you are a person of faith working in the MA public schools, it’s more likely than ever that you will find yourself in the impossible position of being expected to teach something that violates your conscience. Now’s the time to find like-minded colleagues and speak up together. If you are a health teacher who is being forced to teach content that goes against your religious beliefs, contact MFI. We may be able to help. We want to hear from you.
We will keep you informed with further Framework-related analysis and action items as they arise. In the meantime, check out our list of Essential Back-to-School Resources. This valuable page contains links to everything you need to know about opting out of sex ed, your parental rights, and our most updated list of Learning Centers (if you’re ready to leave public school entirely).
Yours in the fight,
Jess Richardson, Communications and Research Assistant
Help MFI continue defending parental rights and protecting children from sexual grooming in school with a financial gift today. Your generous support makes our vital work possible.