NDE releases second draft of Health Education Standards

Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 10:51 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 29, 2021 at 11:59 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - It’s been about four months since Nebraska’s Department of Education released its first draft of Health Education Standards for K-12 grade students.

After much revision and community input, the second draft was made public on Thursday, July 29, but not everyone is on board with these changes, even though the department says public testimony fueled the new draft.

The department said it hopes this second draft hits the reset button in finding common-ground between parents, educators and leaders on the best way to educate students on health topics. The new draft is still receiving much attention and controversy, even with the many changes.

The Human Growth and Development section no longer includes anything on sexual education.

“We’re doing this right. We’re not looking to rush decisions. We’re looking to make sure we do this with a sense of determination that we’re doing what’s best for our students in the state,” said Matt Blomstedt, Commissioner with the Nebraska Department of Education.

These changes eliminate many references to sexual identity, sexual orientation, gender identity, roles and stereotypes. Some points referring to puberty and safe relationships remain in the second draft of state standards, but the language of these topics is now different.

“The importance of prevention of sexual assault, importance of prevention and protecting our children from things they need to know, the importance of understanding how to be safe from disease: all of those things may end up in the standard, but they’re not explicit.”

The department said one of the goals of these revisions was to create balance between roles the department has, the ones parents have and those that individual schools play in students’ education.

“The state board has been really invested in ensuring that every student can see themselves in these standards. It’s important that every student can do that,” Blomstedt added. “Perhaps, that doesn’t best happen in our health standards overall or any of our standards.”

Governor Pete Ricketts responded:

“While this new draft of the Health Education Standards scraps many of the topics Nebraskans found objectionable, the standards still need improvement...The continued presence of gender ideology in the standards leaves the door open for this material to be expanded either before these draft standards are approved or in future years when these standards are revisited,” Ricketts said.

OutNebraska, an organization aimed at working with the LGBTQ+ community said they’re disappointed in the second draft, “This erasure does nothing to protect LGBTQ+ students. The fact that LGBTQ+ people exist should not be controversial.”

The department said even though many of these topics have been removed or changed, they hope on the local level, those conversations continue to happen.

“We’re always going to say to a school and to a community and to parents, you need to have that dialogue,” Blomstedt said, “This was never intended to stop that from happening.”

These revisions largely came from community input and public concerns, which is something the department knows isn’t over just yet.

“Never in a standards writing process do you please possibly everyone. It’s going to be important for us to take additional feedback and respond to that,” Blomstedt said.

The department’s next steps are to present this second draft to the State Board next week for review and will take any additional public comments. They hope to have a third and final draft done by October or November.

The department is still seeking input from the public.

Feedback on the standards can be provided in multiple ways:

Email: nde.standardsinput@nebraska.gov

US Mail:

Nebraska Department of Education

P.O. Box 94987

Lincoln, NE 68509-4987

Public Input Survey: https://nde.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_23uZ81PSLbkRqnk

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