by Mena Mohamed
For students who have spent a significant amount of time within FCPS schools, Family Life Education (FLE) remains a constant. Whether it was conducted in home room in elementary school, health class in middle school or history class in high school, many students in the county have simply grown up with the program.
A deeper investigation, however, reveals the controversy regarding FLE, its developing curriculum and the role of sex education in the classroom. In an interview with Fox 5, Elizabeth Schultz, Springfield’s FCPS Board Member, reported, “I guess what we’re going to see is what is the curriculum that is going to be developed, and I’ve got to tell you I’m afraid as a board member because we get involved in lawsuits.”
Last summer, the program and its implications took a controversial turn. Following a 10-2 School Board vote in June, FCPS now protects transgender students and faculty under its nondiscrimination clause, and is considering allowing participation in sports, activities and locker rooms according to a student’s self-described gender. This has opened up the door for increased instruction on changing sexuality and gender identity in the FLE curriculum that will be released for the 2016-2017 school year.
This decision, unbeknownst to many students, has incited angry backlash from some FCPS parents. Following the proposed changes, according to the FCPS website, students “will be provided definitions for sexual orientation terms heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality; and the gender identity term transgender,” beginning their seventh grade year.
Many parents, backed by the Traditional Values Coalition, hurled insults at the board members and their policies during the policy vote and recently at the voting polls on Nov. 3 for elections. The main argument is that the changes take the power away from the parents and expose students to unnecessary instruction distant from the community’s beliefs.
Biology and FLE teacher Debbie Menard, on the other hand, sees this as a positive change. “Two dads and two moms, it’s ok. It’s a changing world, and as long as there’s love, then it’s all right in school. FLE teaches students how to deal with a changing definition of what a family is,” said Menard.
The School Board will doubtlessly be facing the consequences of these new measures in the coming months as the developing curriculum will be released in September of 2016. From there, if the protests and increased pressure are any indication, the future of FLE remains uncertain.