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What did Miami parents object to in rejected sex-ed textbooks?

A woman is escorted away by police officers at the Miami-Dade County School Board meeting on Wednesday during a discussion of sexual health education textbooks.  The board voted 5-4 not to adopt a specific book, even though it had voted in April to adopt it.  The vote leaves the district without comprehensive sexual education lessons for at least the next four to eight months for students in grades six through 12, a requirement by the state.

A woman is escorted away by police officers at the Miami-Dade County School Board meeting on Wednesday during a discussion of sexual health education textbooks. The board voted 5-4 not to adopt a specific book, even though it had voted in April to adopt it. The vote leaves the district without comprehensive sexual education lessons for at least the next four to eight months for students in grades six through 12, a requirement by the state.

swalsh@miamiherald.com

They didn’t like the terms cisgender or gender fluid when describing how three different people described their gender identity.

They objected to a lesson on emergency contraception pills.

They didn’t like the chapter guiding students to communicate with a trusted adult in difficult situations.

These were among the objections that a less than a year-old group had to a sexual education textbook the Miami-Dade School Board ultimately rejected Wednesday night after a contentious meeting. The board’s decision overruled the recommendations of an officer appointed by Superintendent Jose Dotres to review the materials and the criticisms of the book that were raised.

READ MORE: Sex-ed textbook rejected by Miami school board after parents invoke ‘Don’t say gay’ bill

The School Board’s decision leaves the district without comprehensive sexual education lessons for at least the next four to eight months for students in grades six through 12, a requirement by the state.

The group behind the 278-signature petition that objected to the textbook is called County Citizens Defending Freedom (CCDF), Miami-Dade chapter. It was formed in October and cites the Bible in its mission to “empower citizens to defend their freedom and liberty.” Its director is a parent at a private school that last year said teachers who got vaccinated for COVID-19 could risk losing their jobs.

READ MORE: Miami private school Centner Academy won’t employ vaccinated teachers, staff

The book, “Comprehensive Health Skills” — which comes with a version for middle school and one for high school classes and offers research-based health education with topics such as nutrition, physical activity and sexually transmitted diseases — came under fire after the board adopted the book in April.

That’s when the County Citizens Defending Freedom, which also has pressured the school board in Polk County in central Florida to remove books it claimed were “offensive” and undesirable,” according to a MediaMatters report, sprung into action. It was submitted to the district on a petition, claiming parts of the book were not age-appropriate.

That led to a formal review process from the independent hearing officer appointed by Dotres. On June 8, a public hearing was conducted, and according to the district, just a handful of petitioners attended the meeting.

Following the review and hearing, the officer recommended the board adopt the textbook. On Wednesday, the board, in a 5-4 vote, decided not to adopt the book. Out of more than 40 individuals who spoke at the hours-long meeting, only four objected to the textbook.

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At the Miami-Dade County School Board meeting on Wednesday, July 20, 2022, more than 40 people spoke about whether the board should adopt or not adopt a sexual-education textbook for the coming school year. Only four objected to the textbook, yet the School Board voted 5-4 not to adopt it after a group raised issues about the textbook pertaining to gender identity, birth control and other lessons. sydney walsh swalsh@miamiherald.com

Chairwoman Perla Tabares Hantman, Marta Perez, Mari Tere Rojas, Lubby Navarro and Christi Fraga voted against the book. Vice Chair Steve Gallon, along with Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, Lucia Baez-Geller and Luisa Santos voted to adopt it.

Alex Serrano, executive director of CCDF Miami, told the Herald Thursday that the organization became involved when “breaches of liberty,” or anything that deviates from the nation’s founding documents, were believed to be identified in the materials.

The group has said the textbooks violated Florida’s new parental rights law, even though that law applies to gender identity or sexual orientation instruction in kindergarten through third grade, not middle and high school classes.

“I’m currently not a parent of MDCPS students, but I’m a county resident and I submitted by objection as an individual because statute provides that I’m a stakeholder in the matter,” said Serrano, whose children attend the Centner Academy , a Miami private school that warned its staff last year against getting vaccinated for COVID-19 and said it would not employ anyone who has taken the vaccine.

“Even though my kids would not have received this material, their peers and counterparts would have and would have been indoctrinated with ideology that was not sound for instructional material,” Serrano said.

Among the group’s objections:

A case study of three teenagers where they each described their gender identity. Mikayla, age 16, and Seth, age 17, described their gender identity as cisgender, meaning their gender corresponds to that assigned at birth. Kai, 14, described herself as gender fluid, referring to a change in a person’s gender expression or gender identity, or both. The group also objected to the terms transgender and nonbinary when discussing gender identity.

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The County Citizens Defending Freedom objected to this passage about gender identity in the textbook, ‘Comprehensive Health Skills.’ County Citizens Defending Freedom report

In the chapter related to birth control, the group objected to the lesson on withdrawal, highlighting this sentence: “Withdrawal, or pull out, is one of the least effective birth control methods when used alone.”

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Here’s what the group objected to in lesson about using withdrawal as a birth-control measure. County Citizens Defending Freedom report

The lesson on emergency contraception and how it may help prevent pregnancy also drew their ire, specifically highlighting this sentence in the book: “Several types of emergency contraception pills are also available over-the-counter and do not require prescriptions, including ella and Plan B One-Step.”

In the chapter on Reporting Abuse, the group objected to educating the students about Erin’s Law, a law that requires children and teens to speak up if they are being abused. To date, the law has been passed in 37 states, though not Florida.

Finally, the group objected to teaching the students about “communicating regularly with a trusted adult” when it comes to difficult situations. Among the sentences the group objected to: “Talking with a school nurse, doctor, or other trusted adult is a great way of getting answers to your sexual health questions and making any healthcare appointments.”

“The reason we highlighted those sections of the book is because it does not encourage the minor to seek the advice of their parents,” Serrano told reporters Wednesday. Even in instances of abuse, he said, speaking to a trusted adult “should go in line or along with a recommendation to seek the advice from their parents de ella.”

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Here’s what the group objected to in the lesson about Communicating with Trusted Adults in the sexual-education textbook, ‘Comprehensive Health Skills,’ which the Miami-Dade School Board voted 5-4 not to adopt, overriding the recommendations County Citizens Defending Freedom report

Read the entire report here:

This story was originally published July 21, 2022 7:40 PM.

Sommer Brugal is the K-12 education reporter for the Miami Herald. Before making her way to Miami, she covered three school districts on Florida’s Treasure Coast for TCPalm, part of the USA Today Network.

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