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| 6 min read | by Lonnie Huhman, lhuhman@thesuntimesnews.com |

As the Dexter Community Schools Board of Education considers updating its Reproductive Health Curriculum, a public hearing was held on Feb. 10 to give those in support and those against the chance to voice their views to the board.

Just over 10 people spoke during the hearing, including some parents, residents and school district staff.

What’s before the school board is a recommendation from the DCS Reproductive Health Advisory Committee and administrative team asking the board to adopt as an update the Advocates for Youth Rights, Respect, Responsibility curriculum for grades 7-12.

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The committee’s recommendation said the purpose is to, “Provide an updated, comprehensive resource to the 7-12 grade Reproductive health curriculums to better meet the needs of all our students, including those who identify as LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning).”

It should be noted that LGBTQ+ information is just one part of a larger curriculum update that would be part of the 7th-12th grade health education courses.

By the end of the course, the RHAC said among a list of goals students will have more understanding about: summarizing the benefits of staying within behavioral limits and remaining abstinent; demonstrating the ability to communicate one’s behavioral limits and to show respect for the limits of others related to physical intimacy and sexual behavior, and demonstrating ways to show caring and respect for others, including those with real or perceived differences (e.g., cultural differences, disabilities, gender, and sexual orientation).

These are just a few

It’s noted by school district officials that families can opt their child out of these particular health education lessons.

Some history to the curriculum recommendation saw the RHAC approached by high school students from the Gay-Straight Alliance in the past few years, who expressed their concerns that the current reproductive health curriculum does not meet the needs of LGBTQ+ students. The RHAC said this group expressed the need for an LGBTQ+ inclusive curriculum in Dexter.

The RHAC conducted a survey of 7th-12th grade students and said results showed a general lack of knowledge in LGBTQ+ issues, “and a desire to learn more.”

In the public hearing, Dexter resident Autumn Campbell spoke first in support of the recommendation to update. She brought with her a poster of terms she was going to use in her talk in order to help the board and audience understand. These included heterosexism or homophobia, transphobia, anti-heterosexism and anti-transphobia.

This photo is of the poster Dexter resident Autumn Campbell used during her talk in support of updating the Reproductive Health Curriculum.

Campbell said some people will say they support LGBTQ+ students, but then go onto say “but…”

“You cannot both support LGTBQ+ students and want a public school district to discriminate against them,” she said.

Campbell asked the board to adopt the updated curriculum plan in the name of education justice, be a true ally to LGBTQ+ students and look out for the well being of all of its students.

To further her point, Campbell cited the following quote: “We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.”

One Dexter resident in opposition to the curriculum recommendation was Leeta von Buelow, who said taxpayers reject the update because it emphasizes risk-reduction techniques as opposed to character-based education that provides children with skills and tools to avoid risks altogether.

“Most parents oppose this approach which is replete with controversial topics, such as sexual pleasure, orientation, sexual dysphoria, abortion, contraceptives, other drugs and medical procedures that carry grave health and moral risks,” she said.

She said in reading a nearly three-page statement that the root cause of bullying is not even addressed in the proposed updated lessons.

“This revision wrongly places the blame for bullying on the fact that some children who are suffering from sexual dysphoria or homosexual orientation do not find some of their fellow students willing to play along with their fantasies,” von Buelow said. “Mutual respect and kindness are a two-way street.”

Mill Creek principal Jami Bronson also spoke during the hearing to voice her support for the update. She said there are a lot of emotions around this and she wanted to speak from the perspective of the students who identify as LGBTQ+.  

She said some of these students cannot talk about this at home.

Bronson said they are doing a lot to address bullying, but if they do not also address this updated curriculum and the students it’s including then they will be putting kids further at risk. She said LGBTQ+ students are facing a lot, including bullying, violence, having no one to talk to and high suicide rates.  

In noting those who say that the LGBTQ+ population is just a small percentage of the student population, she said that is no argument against including them. She said the school’s minority population is also a smaller percentage, but that doesn’t mean they do not have them included in the school curriculum.

She said, “We need to do what’s right by kids,” and help them, “feel like they belong.”

She said the update aims to address all students.

A voice in opposition was Deacon Dave Lawrence of Dexter, who said he’s a minister and a Dexter parent. He said he supports non-discrimination in any form and it’s his goal to minister to all people.

However, he said he has concerns about this update because he believes it’s an affront to parents and much of the updated curriculum is basically telling kids they cannot trust their parents to play this important role of teaching them about these areas of life.

He said he understands there’s an opt-out, but he remains concerned about how the curriculum will define certain things.

 “I think it’s a very dangerous place to be when we attempt to define our biology by what we want instead of our creator,” Lawrence said.

This story only captures some of what these speakers said during the public hearing, and there were others that spoke out as well, on both sides.

A community forum on this proposed curriculum update will be held at 6 p.m. on Feb. 27 at Creekside Intermediate School in room 311. Another public hearing, which will go along with a potential board decision, will come in the next month or so.

The recommended update to the Reproductive Health Curriculum was first presented to the school board last month. The Sun Times News had a story from then that can be found at this link: https://thesuntimesnews.com/dexter-schools-looking-at-adding-lgbtq-curriculum/.

To see more information about this go to the DCS website at www.dexterschools.org and go to the tab for board of education meeting packets.

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