More than 300 community members came together to protest Comprehensive Human Sexuality Education (CHSE) curriculum at the April 15, 2021, Delta County School Board meeting.

Due to a number of concerns from the public, Delta County School District Superintendent Caryn Gibson made a last minute change to the school board’s agenda to allow for public comment on the controversial topic. From observation, the majority of persons who spoke against CHSE in the district did so with concerns about LGBT inclusiveness.

This article will address what Comprehensive Human Sexuality Education (CHSE) in HB 19-1032 is by viewing myths vs. facts. Alicia Michelsen, The Learning Council- director, contributed to the information in this article. We offer this information to help the community navigate a very difficult discussion. To date, the school district has not made a decision on whether or not it will accept CHSE standards as mandated in HB 19-1032.

It should be noted that 24 states and D.C mandate sexual health education as a graduation requirement. Colorado does not require that school teach comprehensive sex education or make it a requirement for graduation.

What is Comprehensive Human Sexuality Education?Sexual health education is designed to be a medically accurate and culturally sensitive way to learn about sexual health, boundaries and consent, and making informed, healthy decisions. Culturally sensitive “includes resources, references and information that are meaningful to the experience and needs of communities of color, immigrant communities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities: People who are intersex, people with physical or intellectual disabilities, people who have experienced sexual victimization and others who have been traditionally left out of sexual health education, programs, and policies. CHSE is inclusive of cysgender students (students who both identify and present as hetrosexual) as well as LGBT/Transgender students.

Medically accurate means verified or supported by research conducted in compliance with specific methods and published in peer reviewed journals, where appropriate, and recognized as accurate, objective, and unbiased by the American Public Health Association, The American Academy of Pediatrics or the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Evidence Based Education is the principle that education practices should be based on the best available scientific evidence, rather than tradition, personal judgement, or other influences. The curriculum recommended by the CDPHE FLASH, OWL, 3R’s, Get Real, Elevatus and Positive Prevention Plus are evidence based. Abstinence only curricula are not.

Sexual Health Education must not explicitly or implicitly I) use shame-based or stigmatizing language or instructional tools. II) employ gender stereotypes; or III) exclude the needs of intersex individuals or lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals.

Myth: Delta County School District (DCSD) must adopt CHSE in accordance with HB 19-1032 or lose state funding. A newsletter sent out by one local church stated that DCSD was “considering increased LGBT/Transgender curriculum K-12 in exchange for further state funding, to be implemented this fall.”

Fact: While HB 19-1032 offers limited grant funds to help rural school districts implement CHSE based on Colorado Standards, no district will lose state funds if it opts out of CHSE. Further, no schools will automatically receive or lose funds for participating.

Myth: DCSD is currently teaching sex education that promotes LGBT/Transgender sexuality and is looking to expand on those classes.

Fact: DCSD does not teach comprehensive/inclusive sex education that proves inclusive studies nor does it overtly teach any LGBT sex-education classes. At most, the district offers some limited sex-ed classes taught primarily by local doctors.

Myth: CHSE takes away the rights of parents to teach their children about sexual health education.

Fact: CHSE provides opportunities within the curriculum for students and parents to dialogue about what was learned in class and homework assignments. Quality sex education refers students back to their parents for any questions pertaining to values and to share information that they have learned in class with the intention of creating open dialogue within families.

Myth: All DCSD students are required to attend every CHSE class offered by the district.

Fact: Parents/guardians retain the right to opt their children out of any or all CHSE classes offered by the district. The opt out option places the decision about sex education in the hands of parents not the school district.

Myth: Through exposure to CHSE students will feel that if they have a bad day they can just change their gender.

Fact: Transitioning gender is a deeply personal experience for transgender persons. This experience may be evident to individuals from an early age or may be the result of a lifetime of experiences and there is much in between. The choice about gender expression is a personal choice. CHSE does not encourage or discourage people to choose how they experience or express their sexuality.

Myth: Exposing youth to CHSE might make them LGBTQ.

Fact: In Delta County Schools Healthy Kids survey 2019 16% of students in Delta County identified as LGBTQ or unsure. These numbers are increasing each year. Creating safe space for students to learn about sexual health is important both for the physical and mental health of all students.

According to the CDPHE, sexual health is intimately linked to overall health and wellness. How youth use information about sex and relationships impacts how they plan their educational and economic future, how they plan for a future with or without children, and how they communicate with their family, friends and partners about what matters most to them.

Following the school board meeting, the district issued a statement on next steps for the district including a CHSE survey that asks if the community supports a curriculum that aligns with House Bill 19-1032 and state standards. Once the survey results are collected, the school district’s leadership and the school board will determine how to move forward.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for May, 20 at 6 p.m at district headquarters.

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