Community members debate sex ed curriculum, board policy

by Melissa Martin

April 26 school board meeting

Brecksville-Broadview Heights School Board policies and curriculum were called into question as residents expressed concern that the district is infringing on parental jurisdiction in the areas of sex education, sexual orientation and gender identity.

 Several parents and community members questioned the validity of numerous websites being promoted as safe and reliable sources of information in sex education classes. 

Brecksville resident Christine George told the board that as the parent of a sixth-grader, she recently reviewed the middle school’s seventh-grade health curriculum and was “troubled by [her] findings.” George said she explored the list of websites to find that many encourage sexual experimentation, and others provide students with information on how to circumvent parents to obtain contraception and abortions.

Broadview Heights resident Kathy Boff echoed George’s concerns, claiming some of the sites she visited promote “excessive gender theory” and advocate watching pornography and “keeping police out of school buildings.” She also indicated that hyperlinks on some of the sites send viewers to pages containing more questionable content.

Brecksville resident Jan Lukas said the district’s sexual education curriculum is part of a larger problem. She told the board she believes more structured school board policies would not only remedy these curriculum concerns but help address the growing sexual orientation and gender identity issues at the middle and high school.

“What many of us see in our schools today is an autonomy of several well-meaning educators who are guided by weak board policy,” Lukas said. “I think they need guardrails to reign in what I call ‘the sex-gender social contagion.’ School staff are normalizing sexualization of students through pronoun usage, biological reality confusion and inappropriate sex-ed curriculum resources.”

Lukas, a former educator, said that in the absence of school board policies, staff members have “[taken] latitude to interpret these socially driven topics.” As an example, she pointed to guidance counselors who partner with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network to “provide an inclusive environment to prevent bullying, harassment and discrimination.”

“Students suffer from depression and anxiety and social pressures for reasons unrelated to gender and sex,” she said. “Yet, our school system chose an LGBTQ template to remedy psychological problems that are not caused, but now implied, by gender. This lacks common sense and defies logic. Children need real help from unbiased mental health professionals and guidance counselors.”

Lukas asked the board to consider revising its policies to better promote academic excellence as opposed to “social activism” and to prioritize truth and transparency in what is taught in the classroom.

Brecksville resident Greg Cunningham also asked the district to remove GLSEN “and any other organization that promotes sexualizing children and overstepping parental jurisdictions.” 

Brecksville resident Jennifer Speer spoke as a representative of the newly formed community organization BBH Pride. The organization, which is not affiliated with the school district, is hosting Pride Fest at Brecksville-Broadview Heights Middle School this month. 

“I understand there is controversy surrounding Pride Fest but, ultimately, [BBH Pride’s] only goal is to spread love and understanding and to hopefully help people really learn to progress through this journey,’’ Speer said. “ We know that different people are on different parts of their journey, but ultimately this is the direction that we’re going as a society. Kids will be gay, kids will be trans, they just will be. We can’t stop that.”

Emily Midgely, a Brecksville mother of two children in the district, said she recently joined the BBH Pride task force with several friends and told those in attendance, “We might have a lot more in common than you think.”

“The biggest values we share are respect and kindness for all,” she said. “We all want our kids and staff to be treated with respect and feel safe. And isn’t it the point of education to prepare our kids for the world they will face in adulthood – lots of different kinds of people, people with different perspectives? We want them to be able to listen to each other and interact respectfully.”

The Rev. John King, pastor of Brecksville United Church of Christ who has a student in the district, voiced his support for BBH Pride and said that LGBTQ youth are more likely to commit suicide than their non-LGBTQ peers.

King said he has accompanied parents of deceased LGBTQ children to the cemetery on more than one occasion and said the majority of those parents said “they wish they had just been there for their children.”

“They realized too late that all their kids needed was unconditional love and acceptance,” he said. “How did that ever get so complicated?”

King said the number of suicides among LGBTQ youth drops by 40 percent when they have one accepting adult in their lives, and the risk of suicide is cut in half when LGBTQ individuals find a supportive community environment.

“BBH Pride has zero interest in making your kids gay or trans,” King said. “We can’t change their orientation any more than we can change the color of their eyes or the color their skin. … Nothing BBH Pride does will change the number of LGBTQ kids in our community, but what we are trying to do is reduce the number of kids in our cemeteries.”

In accordance with board policy regarding subject matter raised during open forum, board members did not address any of the comments. ∞