By Robert Rigby, Jr.:
The Fairfax County School Board meets on Thursday June 14 to vote on changes to the Family Life Education curriculum that are more inclusive of transgender students—and have attracted a national media campaign of opposition from outside, right wing groups.
The changes – which also include informing students of ways to prevent HIV infection – were proposed by a 33-member, broadly selected committee tasked with reviewing the curriculum. But they have been targeted by national and statewide groups with a history of opposing equality for LGBTQ people. These groups have launched a barrage of videos, radio spots, tweets and emails designed to flood the school board portal for public comment with messages opposing these changes.
In fact, the changes are fairly small, although highly significant.
- First, using the language “sex assigned at birth” rather than the older “biological sex” as a way of being inclusive of transgender and intersex people, when discussing the sex or gender with which a child is initially raised or identified. Unfortunately, in current legal and cultural discussions, the phrase “biological sex” is used as a negative stand-in or dog-whistle for “real sex;” it is used to imply that a transgender person’s identified sex is not their “real sex.”
- Second, informing high school students about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), when teaching about ways to prevent sexually transmitted infections. PrEP is a daily medicine designed for populations at very high risk for HIV infection, and reduces the rate of infection by 90%. Its use is encouraged by the Centers for Disease Control (https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/prep.html), and it was approved for adolescents in May, after extensive study.
These proposals come from the Family Life Education Curriculum Advisory Committee. FLECAC comprises 33 members appointed by the school board, superintendent, the county health department, the county PTA Council and the Clergy and Faith Council. You can read their proposed changes here: https://www.fcps.edu/node/33908, see Grades 8 through 12.
On the other side are groups such as the Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel, the Eagle Forum and the Family Foundation that are lobbying the school board to reject the recommendations of its own FLECAC.
Fairfax residents can make their voices heard by attending the school board meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday June 14 at Luther Jackson Middle School. Those showing support should wear purple and stand up when the speakers in favor of the proposals address the board during Citizens’ Participation. You can get small flags and signs in the lobby from FCPS Pride before the meeting.
Robert Rigby, Jr., is president of FCPS Pride, an organization for LGBTQ employees, parents of LGBTQ children, and LGBTQ parents in Fairfax County Public Schools, and allies