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Pasco school district backpedals on sex education changes

Superintendent Kurt Browning says some of the lessons in the recommended curriculum are not acceptable.
A sign hangs outside a restroom at 21c Museum Hotel in Durham, N.C. The Pasco County, Fla., school district has had lengthy debates over transgender student rights, similar to those in North Carolina and other states.
Published Sep. 9

Specific lessons within the Rights Respect Responsibility 3R’s sex education curriculum specifically mentioned in the Pasco County School Board’s upcoming workshop packet have superintendent Kurt Browning making clear his opposition to the material included.

The district plans to update and revise its sex ed program, which hasn’t gotten a makeover in 15 years. But the workshop item should have been more straightforward in saying most of the state-approved material from Advocates for Youth will not be used in Pasco schools, Browning said.

“We are not teaching those lessons, except the one that is in there about effective use of condoms,” Browning said. “I don’t want those lessons taught in our schools. It goes beyond what I see as the bounds” of appropriate content.

He noted as one example the chapter called “I Am What I Am,” a series of lessons relating to gender identity. In it, the instructions note that the curriculum veers toward gender neutral pronouns, to make the curriculum “inclusive of all genders and gender identities.”

It says it will refer to “someone with a vulva,” as opposed to using the terms girls and women, for instance.

Browning said it is important for students to learn how boys’ and girls’ anatomies work, what causes pregnancy and other aspects of sex education. However, he said, he would not allow for other lessons such as “I Am What I Am.”

He was not alone.

School Board chairwoman Alison Crumbley was also strongly opposed to the lesson, which she and others had pointed out to them by astute community members in the time leading to Tuesday’s workshop.

“I am not for taking away pronouns,” Crumbley said.

She and other board members have stood steadfastly behind preserving the rights of transgender students, in the face of loud demands from residents and others who want the district to adopt a policy recognizing children by the gender listed on their birth certificates.

But altering the sex education curriculum could become the step too far for the board.

Browning said his administration has not approved the 3R’s model, and the workshop packet should have been more clear. He expected to more fully explain the district’s initiative at the workshop, which begins at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

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