“We have to trust educators and mental health experts to make the best decisions for Nebraska children, not by putting our heads in the sand and acting like LGBTQ students don’t exist,” said Pansing Brooks, a leading advocate for the community.
Jo Giles, executive director for the Women’s Fund of Omaha, said her group was also concerned that lessons on preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease were removed from the original draft.
Giles said it’s important to teach students about the issues before high school, when some become sexually active. She said it’s unrealistic to rely solely on parents, because some students are in abusive households.
The decision didn’t satisfy social conservatives, either, who expressed anger that the department even introduced the proposal in the first place.
“The trust just isn’t there right now,” said Sen. Joni Albrecht, of Thurston, who helped organize opposition to the measure among a majority of Nebraska lawmakers. “The public doesn’t believe that they’re really, truly going to do what’s right.”
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.
This article originally appeared on APNews.com.