Virginia’s public school Family Life Education (FLE) curriculum has been taking hits recently. In Fairfax County, changes were made to the curriculum - including statements that sex is assigned at birth, not a biological fact (language lauded by some as more inclusive and accepting of all students who walk the halls of the Fairfax schools). Many parents worry that such language, aside from being scientifically incorrect, will confuse children; other parents say it will liberate them.
There is now a statewide push to make FLE “opt-in” rather than “opt-out.” Currently, parents can opt their child out of FLE if they are able to locate the proper form, fill it out, and send it to their child’s school. Many – perhaps even most – parents are unaware of this possibility, and even fewer know what is being taught in the classrooms; they do not realize there is any reason to consider opting their child out at all. The opt-in route might require a bit more paperwork, but it would certainly make it easier for parents to make the decision if they know about the choice up front. One woman I spoke with aptly rephrased “opt-in” as “ask parent’s permission” before teaching FLE to their child.
Opt-in just won in the state of Indiana. On July 1 of this year, the Indiana Senate Enrolled Act 65 was signed into law, making it illegal for public schools to teach FLE to students without prior written consent from parents. One article that is not fond of the new law remarked: “Leave it to Indiana to require permission slips before students can receive an education.” This is not an issue of just any kind of education, though. No one is protesting children being taught math or geography. This is about the impressionability of young children and their exposure to things their parents should decide are appropriate or not for them to learn (at their current age or at all). As the foremost educators of their child, parents have the right to know what is being taught in the FLE program and the right to choose whether or not they deem it appropriate for their child. Schools already must obtain written permission before a child can attend a field trip, play on a sports team, or participate in band. As Senator Dennis Kruse, author of the Indiana bill, stated: “if anything needed an opt-in parental consent… it’s human sexuality study.”
Virginia should take heart and follow Indiana. We ought to value the minds and lives of our school children enough to ensure similar protections for them. And we ought to have the good sense to recognize that when it comes to children and such sensitive matters as sexuality, parents are a far better and more appropriate judge than the state.
The Family Foundation is collecting signatures on a petition calling for the General Assembly to make Virginia’s FLE “opt-in,” requiring schools to get parental permission before exposing children to sex ed. You can add your name to the petition online right now. Click here to sign the petition.
By Jordan Hodge
Jordan is a 2018 Summer Policy Intern at The Family Foundation and a graduate of Northeast Catholic College.