July 7, 2015 at 9:24 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Fairfax approves LGBT-supportive curriculum
Fairfax County Schools, gay news, Washington Blade

‘The recommendations strive to promote an environment free of bias and discrimination,’ said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Fairfax County School Board voted 10-2 on June 25 to amend the school system’s Family Life Education Curriculum to add lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity that stress support for diversity and respect for LGBT students.

The vote followed a sometimes contentious meeting in which angry opponents of the proposal, including the president of the anti-gay Traditional Values Coalition, denounced it as a radical attempt to normalize homosexuality and “transgenderism.”

Some of the opponents called for the defeat of the 10 board members supporting the curriculum changes in November, when all 12 members of the school board are up for re-election.

“It speaks volumes about the commitment our school board’s 10 Democratic-endorsed members who recognized the importance of affirming LGBT kids and families,” said Northern Virginia gay activist Joshua Israel.

Israel noted that in drafting the curriculum changes a school board committee considered the findings of a recent youth survey that showed lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning youth in Fairfax County have much higher rates of depression and suicidal thoughts compared to the general youth population.

School Board Chair Tamara Derenak Kaufax pointed out during the board’s debate over the proposal that parents will have the option to “opt” their child out of any of the lessons to which they object.

Nine of the 15 citizens who spoke either in person or on video prior to the vote expressed opposition to the curriculum changes while six expressed support.

Among those speaking against the proposal was Andrea Lafferty, president of the Traditional Values Coalition, a national group founded by her father, the Rev. Louis Sheldon. Many of the more than 200 members of the audience shouted “no” when Lafferty asked whether parents support what she called an ill-conceived proposal to teach kids about homosexuality and “transgenderism.”

Lafferty and other opponents said they were especially concerned that the curriculum changes call for beginning the teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in grades 7 and 8. Supporters of the changes have said the curriculum additions have been carefully vetted by experts and are “age-appropriate.”

“The recommendations strive to promote an environment free of bias and discrimination,” said James Parrish, executive director of the statewide LGBT advocacy group Equality Virginia.

“This shouldn’t be controversial,” Parrish said. “The proposed curriculum will benefit all students, promote understanding and knowledge, and make Fairfax County Schools a safer and more welcoming place for everybody.”

Fairfax gay rights advocate Charles Keener noted that one of the two school board members who voted against the curriculum changes, Patty Reed, is being challenged in the November election by an LGBT supportive teacher, Dalia Palchik.

“We need to support a school board rep that will protect and value every kid instead of seeking to impede progress toward justice and inclusion,” Keener said.

The vote by the Fairfax School Board to approve the LGBT-supportive changes in the Family Life Education Curriculum came less than two months after the board voted on May 7 to expand the school system’s non-discrimination policy to include protections for transgender students and employees.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • Patty Reed opposed protecting students based on gender identity as well as revising the curriculum to include gender identity. Dalia Palchik supports our community on both these issues. Please support her in every way you can

  • This is a very positive thing, and a long time coming. We are not all same
    and each person deserves respect.

  • Please, please, please offer this information to any/all Fairfax County families & friends. VERY Important, the anti-equality folks are trying to take advantage of low turnout during the upcoming November 2015 election.

    “This year, the Fairfax County School Board acted to support transgender students and teachers. They now face opponents who are keeping their intolerant views hidden from view. For the At-Large School Board seats, incumbents Ilrong Moon, Ryan McElveen, and Ted Velkoff deserve our support! Before the Democratic Party Debates on October 13, some of us should attend the League of Women Voters’ Candidate Forum at Madison High School to ask questions about LGBT discrimination and FLE (Family Life Education) lessons on LGBT issues, exposing their opponents’ intolerant views. Our volunteers at NoVa Pride discussed the need to support our progressive school board members. Are you in???” – L. Dodd


    —> —> to submit questions in advance:


    Thanks, Liz McCauley, Concerned Fairfax County Parent

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