Opinion: Florida’s sex ed battle is a problem for the whole country

Opinion: Florida's sex ed battle is a problem for the whole country

On the heels of the controversial law opponents dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the Miami-Dade County school board has rejected two proposed sexual health education textbooks after outcry from conservative groups. Students in Miami-Dade County, the fourth largest school district in the nation, will be denied basic, scientifically accurate information about sexual health, all because a group of right-wing reactionaries deems this information too dangerous for teenagers and young people. As Alejandro Serrano, director of the Miami-Dade chapter of County Citizens Defending Freedom, the right-wing group that mounted a campaign against the textbooks inaccurately put it, “much of the content is not age appropriate, usurps parental rights and is scientifically inaccurate and not factual.”
We shouldn’t expect this kind of censorship to stop at Florida’s borders. Just as abortion rights have fallen, conservative school districts in multiple states are banning books (and training their sights on books about race and LGBTQ issues), prayer in public schools is back with a stamp of approval from the Supreme Court and same-sex marriage and contraception are again controversial on the right.
Sex ed may be yet another wedge in the right’s insistence of waging battles on every front in a growing culture war. At a time when anti-abortion Republicans are clear that they would force 12-year-old girls to give birth, they should probably also teach those 12-year-olds about their bodies and about birth control.
The sex ed textbook dispute in Miami-Dade County is particularly egregious. It’s worth reading through the sections of the textbooks flagged by County Citizens Defending Freedom. These texts recommend talking to a trusted adult about bullying and questions about sexual health (the term “trusted adult” is apparently so suspect that the opposition group highlighted it in yellow and underlined it in red).

Also at issue: The textbooks say that some people who get pregnant have babies, some place their children for adoption and some have abortions. They say abortions end a pregnancy, and are different than birth control, which prevents a pregnancy; they explain what emergency contraception is but assert that it shouldn’t be relied upon as a primary means of contraception. They classify withdrawal as unreliable when used to try to prevent pregnancy.

The textbooks also advise that teenagers can ask their doctors questions about what information those doctors are required…

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