In the last four days news has spread of Nebraska’s plan to update their Health Education Standards. Nebraska updated their Health Education Standards on March 4 to include beginning sexuality education in Kindergarten. It describes eight categories that are important for their health education. These categories are personal health, nutrition, physical activity, substance abuse prevention, disease prevention, injury prevention, safety, social, emotional, and mental health, human growth and development, and consumer and environmental health.
Among these categories are age appropriate discussion for each grade level. Some things that Kindergarteners would be learning would include healthy and unhealthy behaviors, how school and parents can help make healthy decisions, teach students how to make healthy food choices, etc. One of the categories listed here has caused quite the stir, not just in Nebraska. Governor Pete Ricketts has asked Nebraska to remove the new sex education topics from the draft.
In the draft it states that kindergarteners will be taught the fundamentals of sexual health including accurate names for body parts. They will also be taught the difference between safe and unsafe touch, consent and how to say no, and different family structures. Kindergarteners will also be taught the five senses, and that healthy bodies come in different shapes, sizes and abilities.
Despite these being important discussions that should be had with children, there has been excessive backlash from different states as well as from Nebraska residents. Many have stated that children should not be exposed to “radical brainwashing,” and that teaching children about sex is taking away their innocence and forcing them to grow up too quickly. One comment on KOAM’s Facebook post said it is “immoral teaching.”
What is important to understand is that kindergarteners will not be taught about sex itself, nor about contraception or anything like that. In fact, the draft does not discuss the basics of puberty until 3rd grade. In 4th grade they begin discussing puberty in more depth. Children everywhere, need to be taught about consent, safe touches, coercion, how to say no, and how to talk about these things to trusted adults.
In the Netherlands sexuality education begins in kindergarten and has seen positive effects. Children deserve to know the correct names of their body parts and how to tell someone if someone has touched them. With so many “cute” nicknames for body parts it is difficult for professionals to know when there is a problem and when to report such an issue. To protect children, we need to teach them these things, they are not “immoral” or inappropriate, they are important and basic things that everyone should know.
Another issue many have had with the updated draft is that it teaches children about gender identity and sexual orientation. Some have stated concerns about children being too young to know about gender, including their own, and sexual orientation. However, children’s shows are full of heterosexual relationships and adult innuendos about sex. Also, the idea of children being too young to learn about their gender is so ridiculous, children are already taught about gender from the moment they are born. With gender specific nursery’s, clothing, and toys, it is obvious that there is a difference between genders. Children need to learn that gender identity is real, sexual orientation is real and is not just heteronormative. All states should follow in Nebraska’s footsteps and update their Health Education Standards to include sexuality education beginning in Kindergarten.