HB2570: “Common-Sense Corrective” to Family Life Education

Current and former members of the Fairfax County Family Life Education Curriculum Advisory Committee (FLECAC) sent the following letter to Virginia’s Senate Education and Health Committee, urging passage of HB2570: 

We the undersigned are current or recent members of the Fairfax County Family Life Education Curriculum Advisory Committee (FLECAC). As such, we have direct knowledge of the content of the FLE curriculum and of the process by which it is designed. Based on our in-depth experience, we strongly support HB2570, which requires that a parent or guardian grant written consent prior to the participation of their student in any FLE classes.

As FLECAC members, we have reviewed the content of every lesson from K-12 in the curriculum, which contains sexually explicit and ideological content that goes far beyond the basics of sexual reproduction. Yet, most parents are unaware of this content, containing lessons on such topics as incest and pedophilia as early as 3rd grade, and repeated instruction on anal, oral and other types of sexual contact, as well as various social issues. In fact, approximately 85% of those who participated during a mandatory public comment period in 2018 opposed the introduction of certain controversial lessons in FLE. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of the school board disregarded the public’s opposition to these lessons and included them in the curriculum. This pattern has been repeated throughout the last decade, rendering nul the statutory requirement for parental and community involvement.

Requiring permission would have minimized the disastrous events in Western Albemarle County in 2018, where, without the consent of parents, FLE instructors showed a shockingly graphic sexual education video to ninth grade students, causing outrage throughout the Commonwealth. HB2570 would help ensure that FLE does, in fact, promote parental involvement as required by law.

The Virginia Code (§22.1-207.1 for Family life education) requires that “all such instruction shall be designed to promote parental involvement”. The Guidelines of the Board of Education further state that, “there must be evidence of broad based community involvement and an annual opportunity for parents and others to review curriculum and instructional materials prior to the beginning of actual instruction.” Prior written consent from parents for their students to participate in the program would satisfy this state-mandated requirement. Conversely, requesting community involvement during the evening of a busy work week for a thorough review of grade level lessons and videos is unduly burdensome if not virtually impossible. FLE curriculum is consistently difficult to access, including for families with students in different grades who must attend different sessions.

The Fairfax County FLECAC does not in fact represent the community it serves, with few current parents on the committee and a stark lack of ethnic, ideological or religious diversity. Opting out of the program, as currently required, places an undue burden on Virginia families. While Virginia law currently allows parents to opt out or excuse their child from class, the process is unduly burdensome for dual working parents, single parents, military spouses, and ethnic minorities who do not speak English as a primary language. The lessons are not translated or accessible for these numerous families, rendering the possibility of opt-out nearly impossible, including from instruction that may run counter to their religious or cultural views.

An undue burden is not, however, placed on school staff and personnel, as multiple and frequent consent requirements already exist and are well managed. These consent forms are mandated in classes ranging from music to history, and have not presented an undue burden or hardship.

FCPS parents are required to explicitly consent, in writing, to such benign and routine activities as musical and sports performances, extra-curricular activities, some movies and all field trips. To require consent to visit the United States Capitol and not require consent when engaging in discussions on incest, pedophilia and oral and anal sex, as well as instruction on a controversial range of social issues now covered in FLE, is troubling. Consent cannot be presumed when it comes to mature sensitive topics. Much as we have begun to include the topic of consent in discussions of sexual assault, we need to respect the rights of parents to provide explicit, not construed, consent in discussions of sexual education.

HB2570 would help ensure that the Code of Education for VA is not circumvented, and that parents are more fully involved. Please support this common-sense corrective, and ensure that our educational systems and Virginia families be able to cooperate and partner more fully on these important topics.

Thank you for your attention and your support of HB2570.

Signed,

FLECAC Present and Past Members: Laura Murphy (2016 to present); John Guevara (2018 to present); Laura Hanford (2015-2018); Monica Cameron (2013)

Image credit: Pexels / CC0

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