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Take Action: Provide Input on Comprehensive Sex Education by June 10th!

Please take five minutes to take this survey to support comprehensive sex education in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). Currently, the FCPS School Board is reviewing recommendations from the Family Life Education Curriculum Advisory Committee (FLECAC), a group of parents, educators, experts, and spiritual representatives who have volunteered to help review and update the FLE materials for FCPS students. 

FLECAC Recommendations

Despite expected outrage by far right publications and groups, most of whom want to eliminate comprehensive sex education, the 41 recommendations by FLECAC are, for the most part, not particularly controversial. They include: 

  1. Objective and descriptive statements updates, some of which will affect instruction and curriculum (recommendations # 1-36), which cover:

    1. Consent and boundaries for K-12 (#1-25), including how to recognize unsafe situations, how to communicate “no,” identifying abuse and how to report it, understanding sexual harassment, bodily autonomy, respecting consent, relevant laws, etc.

    2. Reproductive systems for grades 4-7 (#26-29).

    3. Family and boundaries for Kindergarten (#30-32).

    4. Identifying and reporting abuse in grade 5 (#33)

    5. Contraception/abstinence and sexuality in grade 10 (#34-35).

    6. Modified Unit (#36). Note: Exact recommended changes for each of the above recommendations can be found in Appendix C of the FLECAC report.

  2. Media changes (recommendations # 37-40), which include:

    1. Ensuring equitable videos in 4th grade for boys and girls (#37). Many thanks to the parent who noticed that the girls’ 4th grade video was truncated, which meant that boys got full education on their internal and external reproductive system while girls only learned about their internal system!

    2. Providing access to both 4th videos to boys and girls (#38), which makes sure that all students are learning about what is happening to their own bodies and to others' bodies, as well.

    3. Adding a 7th grade puberty video (#39).

    4. Removing a 10th grade testicular cancer video (#40) which is inaccessible to most classrooms, since the video is on VHS and DVD, and most schools no longer have access to VHS or DVD players.

  3. Elementary curriculum recommendation to develop a more inclusive curriculum overall that reflects the needs of the current student body (recommendation # 41).

How to Provide FLE Feedback to FCPS

The FCPS feedback form may initially seem a little hard to understand, because they have listed numbers for all 41 recommendations; however, you can choose “all of them” to provide your feedback, unless you care to read each recommendation individually on this page

As you are providing feedback, please be aware that FLE in Virginia is abstinence-based by law, which means that all sexuality education is rooted in abstinence before marriage.

Few know this fact–every time I share it, people are surprised. Personally, I am dismayed by this, since studies have shown that abstinence-only sex education is less effective at preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Some also consider abstinence-based sex education heteronormative, particularly since gay marriage was illegal in Virginia until October 14, 2014, and students have told me that abstinence-based FLE feels both heteronormative and homophobic.

All parents should be aware so that they can discuss their family values vis-a-vis sexuality and abstinence with their children. 

Parents as Primary Educators

Speaking of which, I want to emphasize that FCPS and FLECAC fully support that parents are the primary educators of their children. Of course, parents should talk to their students about sex and reproductive health; however, many do not because of discomfort with the subject. Nevertheless, decisions that affect emotional and physical health should be made in the context of a family’s values; thus, it is possible to opt out of FLE partially or entirely if the lessons do not conform to a family’s needs or values. In fact, I have done this myself with one or two lessons.

FLE is a complex topic that needs to be discussed with care. The FCPS professionals who teach it take their duty to students and families seriously, as does the FLECAC who made these recommendations. The volunteers of FLECAC each have experience, interest, and a desire to support students’ well-being and decision-making, within the bounds of a student’s family values and life experiences. Consider contacting your school board representative(s) today to be on the committee next year.

For full disclosure, I would like to share that I have been a member of the FLECAC for the past three years. I support comprehensive sex education because it makes our students safer by empowering them to make good choices, including delaying sexual activity and knowing the importance of consent. 

If you would like to learn more, I suggest that you review the Fairfax County Health Department Youth Survey to understand the state of youth today. Also this neat guide from the Centers for Disease Control may help explain how Virginia’s FLE regulations affect the sex education in our public schools, including whether or not instruction is evidence-based.

Other Relevant Resources


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