The Blair Community Schools Board of Education shared its stance on the state board of education's proposed health standards during its regular meeting Monday night.
The state board released the first draft of the new standards, which creates a framework for K-12 health education for Nebraska schools, in March. The first draft calls for teaching children as young as first grade about gender identity.
Blair board members approved a motion 7-2 that the district is opposed to the proposed health education standards and directed Supt. Randy Gilson to send a letter to the Nebraska Department of Education informing of their decision.
Board members Brandi Petersen and Brittany Gunderson voted no.
Petersen clarified her reasoning for voting against the motion, saying that she didn't believe it was necessary at this time.
“It doesn't mean I agree with it at all or want to adopt the standards,” she said.
Gunderson did not specify the reason for her no vote.
Discussion on the health standards began after Gilson presented a resolution drafted by state Sen. Ben Hansen, who represents District 16, and 29 other state senators for boards to adopt.
Board president Kari Loseke said she has received emails and feedback from residents on the proposed standards.
“I feel like the community has been asking us for our stance,” she said. “That's why I recommended it be on the agenda. I just think the community wanted to hear what we think.”
Hansen, who attended the meeting, encouraged the board to approve the resolution and send it to the state board.
“It is our hope that as they receive resolutions from every part of the state, they will get the message that such controversial content has no place in our schools,” Hansen said. “Classrooms are to be the focus of learning, exploring and growing, not for recruiting young minds for political propaganda. Let parents decide when their children learn delicate topics of life.”
Several parents also spoke out against the standards.
“These are things that need to be discussed at home, that need to be talked about in a private situation and that there are things that are absolutely inappropriate for our little kids to be hearing,” parent Sarah Jo Tegtmeier said. “I am 100% in favor of this resolution.”
Regardless of what the NDE decides to propose, the district is not required to adopt those standards, Gilson said. The superintendent said he denounces the proposed draft.
“At this point in time, you can put your trust in me that we're not going to pursue, we're going to stick with our health curriculum, the standards we're teaching,” Gilson said.
Petersen said she worried about the precedence approving the resolution would set, given that the proposed standards had not yet formally been adopted.
“I'm just not sure of the precedence we set on a political issue,” she said. “I'm not saying I'm for or against it. I haven't researched it nearly extensively enough. The standards are still considered a work in progress.”
Board member Bob Schoby said he was more in favor of a motion rather than the resolution.
“We do 95-97% of our business with a simple motion,” he said.
Schoby also spoke out against the health standards.
“Having two teachers in my family, I've discussed it with them,” he said. “They don't want to touch it with a 10-foot pole. They don't have time to deal with it. We all agree. It's something that should be left to the parents.”
Board member Laura Ronning agreed.
“Having been a teacher of young children, I have felt if nothing else, some of the standards seem developmentally inappropriate for very young children,” she said. “I guess I just always thought we don't need to start teaching little children lots of information that they may not really be interested in learning anyway.”