Next Monday, April 23, parents of students in public schools are being asked to join a “Sex Ed Sit Out” by keeping their elementary and middle-school students out of school for one day. Organizers in the United States and Canada, as well as some Australian cities, are participating in reaction to what they consider the sexualization of children under the guise of education, through the use of sexually explicit materials in classrooms.
Writer and vlogger Elizabeth Johnston, known as “The Activist Mommy,” has created viral videos detailing explicit programs and curricula being used in public schools; she originated the idea of a national protest. Johnston and friends used social media to jump-start their project, and have since been joined by conservative organizations such as American Life League, Family Research Council, and the Liberty Council.
“Why are our tax dollars going to pay for resources that teach dangerous and promiscuous behaviors which most parents find morally abhorrent and the CDC has stated are a health risk?” asks Johnston. “We are fed up. Enough is enough.”
Caryl Ayala is spearheading the Austin, Texas protest. A former teacher, Ayala explained, “We are uniting with parents across the globe to demand that our rights as parents be respected regarding the teaching of sexuality and sexual orientation. Hands off our kids!”
New attention was directed at public school sex-ed programs last year, when The Red Crayon, a story about a child’s gender “transition,” was read to a kindergarten class at a public charter school in California. The kindergarten teacher then re-introduced a boy classmate to the children as a “girl,” which reportedly traumatized several children in the class. Because the instruction isn’t classified as “sex education,” parents were not advised in advance about the material and had no opportunity to opt-out.
Tami Fitzgerald is the executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, which is a sponsor for the Sex Ed Sit Out. Last year she was asked by parents in the Charlotte, North Carolina area to help them fight the Welcoming Schools curriculum, which was tested for adoption in their county. When parents were told they could not photograph pages of the program material, they began to suspect that a stealth campaign to forestall parental objection was in place.
Fitzgerald described Welcoming Schools as a program created for elementary schools to teach “family diversity” and build “gender-inclusive, non-binary schools” free from bullying. “What about the bullying of parents and children who object to this perverse ideology?” asked Fitzgerald. The program, developed by the LGBT advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign, subjects students to opposite-gender role-play, and encourages them to cross-dress and to view traditional attitudes of family structure as harmful, Fitzgerald said; students with questions are referred to Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood is also behind another curriculum causing concern for parents—Get Real is a sex-education program for sixth and seventh graders. Parents in Cumberland County, North Carolina began to voice complaints about Get Real when it was introduced in their schools, pointing to graphic descriptions of sexual acts and advice for children such as using plastic wrap as a form of protection during oral sex.
According to a Family Research Council account, the Get Real program alarmed parents who objected to its promotion of homosexuality, its encouraging gender confusion among students, and its “jaw-dropping descriptions of various acts.” Interim superintendent Tim Kinlaw agreed, “It just simply was not appropriate for our sixth-grade students.” Parents prevailed, and the program was pulled from Cumberland County schools.
The implementation of these programs and others like them are the motivation behind the April 23 Sex Ed Sit Out. Organizers are providing parents with a letter that may be sent to school principals explaining their protest. “We send our children to school and pay for your services through our taxes so that our children can learn reading, writing, science and history, not how to question their gender or how to have anal and oral sex,” the letter reads. The letter makes note of several programs other than Welcoming Schools and Get Real, including Making Proud Choices and Safe Schools. The letter also takes aim at the lack of transparency about the adoption of these programs in some schools and districts, saying that this makes it difficult for parents to opt out of programs they deem harmful for their children.
Another factor working against parents who do not want their children exposed to this material is the fact that these comprehensive programs push gender ideology and sexual behavior across the curriculum—in science, English, and history classes, for example, as well as health and life-skills classes. Because the objectionable content is woven throughout the entire curriculum, parents often cannot remove their student from a single offensive class.
This same methodology is being implemented in Britain via a compulsory “Relationships Education” in primary schools, as was reported in Catholic World Report last month. One program for preschool children, titled Getting Started: Celebrating Difference and Challenging Gender Stereotypes in the Early Years Foundation Stage, seeks to “explain why thinking about lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) inclusion is important in the early years” and “is designed to be used by any practitioner working with children aged 0-5.” In Canada, parents object to Sexual Orientation Gender Identity programs in various guises.
The fact that objectionable content is often packaged as “anti-bullying” or “relationships” education, rather than sex education, can also make it difficult for parents looking to opt out. A memo to the Orange County Board of Education was recently circulated online, in which the Board’s legal counsel advises that the California Healthy Youth Act allows parents to remove their children from sex and HIV education, but that this does not apply to programs covering “gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, discrimination, harassment, bullying, intimidation, relationships, or family.”
An essential trust between schools and families has been stretched too far, parent activists behind the Sex Ed Sit Out say.
“Why aren’t administrators being transparent with parents about the content of sexuality resources?” asks Elizabeth Johnston. “It’s as if they have something to hide. That should frighten parents everywhere.”