In a 5-4 vote, the Miami-Dade School Board in Florida rejected two sexual education textbooks for middle and high school students. The Wednesday decision was seen by parents as a victory.
The vote came at the end of a turbulent school board meeting during which more than 40 community members spoke — all but two of whom were proponents of keeping the textbooks in question.
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It is worth noting, though, two of the school board members who opposed the books, Christi Fraga and Mari Tere Rojas, told the Miami Herald counting only those who spoke at the meeting is a poor representation of the community members’ actual sentiments toward the books. Rojas and Fraga said they received a great deal of emails from parents who took issue with the textbooks.
One of the parents who supported keeping the textbooks, Marika Lynch, a mother of three, told NBC Miami, “Half of all high school kids have sex before they graduate from high school; that’s not something we’re gonna change. So do we want them to have the best information? Yes. Do I want my kids, who are all pre-teens, to have the best information? Absolutely. That’s what we’re here for today.”
During the meeting, another speaker said, “Refusing to provide students with this necessary information would undoubtedly cause children to experience sexual health consequences,” according to CBS News.
What made the books so problematic?
There were two parents, however, who spoke out against the contents of the textbooks, titled “Comprehensive Health Skills.”
Alex Serrano, a representative for the Miami-Dade chapter of County Citizens Defending Freedom, a right-leaning organization focused on helping Americans “defend their faith, freedom, and liberty, while placing local governance under the watchful eye of local American citizens acting as patriots.”
The group has documented its concerns with the textbooks, which it argues are explicit in nature and teaches children about sexual orientation and gender identity.
Serrano said he pulled his children from the school district and enrolled them in a private school after learning about some of the — what he believed to be — age-inappropriate content they were being taught.
He explained during the meeting, “We are not against sexual education or human reproduction and sexual education books. We are for statutory compliance and age appropriateness in the content … and compliance with parental rights law.”
Serrano added discussions about gender ideology “do not belong” in the classroom because it is “ideology,” rather than factual or educational information.
Rojas agreed with the concerned parents. She said she believes the textbooks contain chapters with content not appropriate for students. The school board member explained to CBS News she does believe contraception, for example, should be taught in the classroom, but noted she is “not in agreement” with the way it is addressed by the textbooks in question.
The vote this week is a reversal from the previous vote in April, when the board voted 5-3 to adopt the learning materials, the Miami Herald reported.
Among those who are not pleased with the shift are leaders of local teachers unions.
Karla Hernandez-Mats, president of the United Teachers of Dade, said in a statement members are “disturbed by the continued attempt from extremist groups to censor books,” adding, “We live in an enlightened society and completely oppose the censorship of knowledge and accurate teaching materials.”
This development comes on the heels of the implementation of Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law, a bill that garnered nationwide attention after being mischaracterized by members of the press as the “Don’t Say Gay bill.” The legislation, signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), prohibits educators from teaching pre-K through third grade students about sexual orientation or gender identity.
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