Virginia School Board Votes to Teach Seventh Graders about ‘Gender Identity’

By Lauretta Brown | July 2, 2015 | 10:14am EDT
A snapshot from the 10th annual Trans Day of Action in New York in June 2014. (AP File Photo/Frank Franklin II)

( – Beginning  in seventh grade, public school students in the Virginia suburbs outside Washington, D.C., will be taught about “sexual orientation terms,” including heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality – “and the gender identity term transgender,” according to a newly adopted sex education curriculum.

The Fairfax County School Board voted last week to adopt the controversial new “Family Life Education Curriculum.”

The meeting was crowded with angry parents, many of whom spoke out against the sudden changes.

Andrea Lafferty, a Fairfax County parent and president of the Traditional Values Coalition, spoke at the board meeting, asking parents: “Do you want gender identity to be introduced to seventh grade?” Parents in the audience shouted, “No!” 

Last month, as reported, the Fairfax County School Board voted to make “gender identity” a protected class, and Lafferty mentioned that as well:

“The night of the gender identity vote, I explained to Superintendent (Karen) Garza that parents were upset about the process,” Lafferty told the crowd. “To my surprise, she responded tersely and claimed the process had included parents.

“Parents, do you feel you’ve been involved in the process?” Lafferty asked. Again, the assembled parents responded with loud shouts of “no!”

After learning to define heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality and gender identity in seventh grade, students in eighth grade will delve deeper into “individual identity.”

The eighth grade curriculum says individual identity will be described “as having four parts – biological gender, gender identity (includes transgender), gender role, and sexual orientation (includes heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual).”
In ninth grade, students will be taught that “sexuality evolves from infancy to old age.”

Students with questions – “or those concerned about their sexual orientation or gender identity will be advised to talk with a parent, member of the clergy, trusted adult or counselor. Emphasis will be placed on tolerance and nondiscrimination of all people.”

By tenth grade, “Sexual orientation and gender identity terms will be discussed with focus on appreciation for individual differences.”

Laura Hanford, a Fairfax mother of five, accused the school board of “outright deceit” in their attempts to change the curriculum. 

Hanford said the curriculum had been presented “on the grounds that it aligns with Virginia State Health Standards.” But she pointed out that “none of those controversial new teachings” on gender identity and family constructs are in the state standards: “They’re not even addressed,” she said.

“We align better with those standards now than we will if you pass those recommendations,” Hanford told the board.

“In thirty of the busiest days of the year, you presented us with a curriculum so extreme on gender and sexuality that it offended families and people of faith across the county,” Hanford continued. “Your own directives on community engagement say that your desired outcome is that stakeholders feel a part of the solution. Is this a room full of satisfied stakeholders?”

The school board passed the changes to the curriculum to angry cries from those gathered. The vote was 10-2 with board members Elizabeth Schultz and Patty Reed voting no on the curriculum changes.

The board disregarded motions by Reed and Schultz to postpone the vote so that board members and parents would have more time to consider the proposed changes.

“I am very concerned that we’re watching a legacy of an environment that is setting this board at odds with parents,” Schultz said. “Certainly policymaking done on the fly without consideration of the people on whom the policy has the greatest level of impact --and to do so without a great degree of care and to make sure that we’re representing the people who have elected us to be here -- can only yield bad policy.”

Schultz said she’s concerned that the curriculum may prompt lawsuits: “Now our time is going to be distracted and taken away from the real work of the board. We should be worried about educating 186,000 students and not about all of this peripheral political stuff."

In addition to their concerns about the changes to the sex-ed curriculum, parents voiced objections to the school board moving controversial items from the Family Life and Education Curriculum to the mandatory Health Curriculum, which would prevent parents from opting out.

The board compromised on that issue by voting to move some of the curriculum objectives back to the FLE curriculum.

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