The Norfolk Public Schools Board of Education approved a letter opposing the first draft of Nebraska’s health education standards during a meeting on Thursday.
The board will be sending the letter to the state board of education and Matthew Blomstedt, the state’s education commissioner.
The letter requested specifically that the second draft of the standards be published without “current sex education standards and other sensitive topics.”
“We believe that these topics are best taught by parents or guardians, within the context of family values, and we oppose their inclusion in the Nebraska State Standards,” the letter said.
The letter stated that the board of education believes it’s the parent’s responsibility — not the district’s — to teach students about human reproduction, gender identity, sexual orientation and sexuality.
Sandy Wolfe, board president, Bruce Mitchell and Brenda Carhart approved the letter while Jenna Hatfield-Waite and Jake Claussen opposed it. Tammy Day, board vice president, was absent. Wolfe said board members don’t have to sign the letter if they disagree.
Members who were against sending a letter said they wanted to request a better balance between including some sensitive topics and excluding others, or they wanted to simply ask for a second draft without naming specifics.
“I don’t feel that all the standards that we listed in our letter necessarily need to be removed,” Hatfield-Waite said. “I don’t know if it's important for us to take a specific stance — we only heard from one portion of our community at our last meeting.”
More than a dozen parents and community members voiced opposition to the health education standards draft at the board’s July 12 meeting. No one spoke in support of it.
Mitchell said he agrees with the parents who are against the draft.
“These proposals are a pedophile's dream,” he said. “A pedophile's goal is to take as long as it takes, whether days, months or years, to desensitize or groom children for their sick needs. This is opening the door for them, and it's not OK.”
The state board of education has received thousands of comments about the draft through letters, emails, phone calls and comments voiced in public meetings. The majority of Nebraskans who oppose it are concerned with the same topics and condemn their inclusion in the standards.
A second draft is still expected to be released later this summer. The state board of education estimated a vote on the final product would occur in the fall.
A new policy that also was approved Thursday would require the NPS school board to vote on whether to adopt the recommended standards if they pass. Previously, any standards recommended, but not required, by the state board of education were automatically adopted. Now members have to vote on state board standard recommendations.
If the board doesn’t adopt the standards, then members will adopt “locally developed standards that are equal or exceed in rigor” within one year.
Wolfe said she encourages parents and the public to attend the board’s next meeting on Monday, Aug. 9, if they want to voice their opinions about the draft.
“I agree (that) we haven’t heard from both sides,” Mitchell said. “But they have had every opportunity to speak, too, and they haven’t spoken.”
The Norfolk Public Schools Board of Education met for its monthly meeting Thursday at noon at the central administration office, 512 Phillip Ave.
The meeting lasted 35 minutes.
Board members present: Bruce Mitchell, Sandy Wolfe, Jenna Hatfield-Waite, Jake Claussen and Brenda Carhart.
Others in attendance: Four from the media and several district administrators.
ITEMS OF INTEREST
— Board members approved an opposition letter regarding Nebraska’s health education standards draft that will be sent to state education officials.
— The resignation of member Bruce Mitchell was accepted.
— Members approved several policies, including one that will require the board vote on any recommended standards from the state board of education.
— Approved the second and final reading of board policies 1200, 3560, 4002, 4003, 4190, 4260, 5001, 5401 and 6380.
— Approved the second and final reading of board policies 3132 (internal controls), 1110 (bulletin boards), 4025 (professional boundaries), and 6212 (assessments and academic content standards).
— Approved the revisions made to the 2021-22 preschool, elementary, middle school, junior high and senior high student handbooks.
— Approved the revisions made to the 2021-22 certified, classified and substitute handbooks.
— Approved sending a letter to the state board of education and the commissioner of education opposing the current (first) draft of the health education standards proposed by the Nebraska Department of Education.
— Approved the contract of Brooklyn Ronnfeldt, who will be a special education teacher at Washington Elementary.
— Approved the resignation of board member Bruce Mitchell, effective Saturday, July 31.
FUTURE MEETINGS: The next meeting of the board of education will be Monday, Aug. 9, at 6:30 p.m. A study session will begin before the meeting at 5:30 p.m.