Washington state adds gender identity to health lessons

Sexuality | Kindergartners will be taught about the ‘many ways to express gender’
by Sarah Schweinsberg
Posted 6/15/16, 12:20 pm

It is now the job of public school teachers in Washington state to teach their students about gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).

The new additions to the Health and Physical Education Standards go into effect for the 2017-18 school year. Under the new rules, teachers are supposed to help kindergartners “understand there are many ways to express gender” and seventh graders will be able to “distinguish between biological sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.”

Conservative families already are protesting the move. The Family Policy Institute of Washington (FPIW) started a petition against the new curriculum additions.

“This is one issue, of many, that starkly divides parents,” said Max Eden, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. “Better to let the states decide than the secretary of education, but much better to let communities decide rather than the state superintendent.” 

Although parents can opt their children out of the gender identity discussions, some parents worry about how their children will score on tests based on the new curriculum if they don’t attend the classes.

Triller Haver’s daughter starts kindergarten next year. She told KING5 News that she worries how her kids will be graded on curriculum involving ideological differences.

“When you get into the more philosophical realm of things, that is a decision that parents need to be able to have with their children when they’re ready for it,” Haver said.

Sara Mead, a partner at the Bellwether Institution, noted developmental teaching requires respecting a child’s values and culture: “Any consideration of what children are taught needs to take this into account.”

Under the new rules, students will learn that gender roles can “vary considerably.” Marissa Rathbone, OSPI’s director of learning and teaching, told KING5 News students would be encouraged to pursue their own gender norms.

Amid the criticism, OSPI said the specific learning outcomes of the new curriculum are merely recommendations to local school districts, not requirements.

But FPIW noted that while curriculum is ultimately determined by the local school districts, all public schools must meet OSPI’s learning standards and outcomes in order to fulfill state testing standards.

Sarah Schweinsberg

Sarah is a news and feature reporter for WORLD Radio and WORLD Watch. She is a World Journalism Institute and Northwestern College graduate. Sarah resides with her husband, Zach, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Follow her on Twitter @SarahSchweins.

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    Posted: Wed, 06/15/2016 06:26 pm

    If I lived in Washington, my kid would NOT be taking public school health.