What a way to follow Pride.
This week, Governor Ricketts is taking his political rhetoric on the road to town hall meetings to spread misinformation about inclusive, age-appropriate, science-based health education standards that are under consideration by the Nebraska State Board of Education.
If you haven’t been following this closely, here are the key points:
- Nebraska doctors, teachers, school nurses, and other professionals drafted the standards.
- If adopted, the standards would provide a general guide for public schools to develop health-related course content, like standards that have already been adopted for physical education, fine arts, and foreign languages.
- The draft standards rightly include information about LGBTQIA+ people and families.
- The focus of Gov. Ricketts’ opposition shifts week to week. He has demanded the addition of private religious entities to the drafting committee, tried to erase the presence of LGBTQIA+ students and families, and used coded language to try and tie the standards to concepts like critical race theory. He has even suggested teaching children the correct anatomical names for their body parts would “sexualize” our children.
Consider all that with these other facts: Curriculum decisions will still be made locally. These standards don’t apply to private schools or home school families. State law already lets families opt their kids out of sex ed if they want to.
Gov. Ricketts is calling his events the “Protect Our Kids & Schools” town hall series. The irony is that his fearmongering and otherizing only worsens a harmful status quo that these standards are trying to address.
Accurate, affirming health information supports students' well-being, helps prevent self-harm, and encourages healthy relationships.
As a local pediatrician recently wrote in the Omaha World-Herald, “Without appropriate education and policies, LGBTQ+ students are at a much higher risk of bullying and harassment, which can cause declines academically, poor mental health, and even suicide. A comprehensive curriculum will not only prepare our future generations but also provide life-saving information to help our LGBTQ+ youth not feel isolated in what should be one of their safest spaces, their school.”
Health education that is age-appropriate, complete, and honest should be the standard for all students in Nebraska. While we feel confident the decision makers know these standards should be about youth and their needs and not politics at its loudest or most cynical, they need to hear from you.
You can start being an advocate for effective health education through this excellent resource from the Women’s Fund of Omaha: https://www.omahawomensfund.org/nde-health-standards/.
Together we can send a clear message: Nebraska should be for everyone.