A small school district in Michigan is pushing back against those who would alter its sex ed program by incorporating discussions of sexual and gender identity.
In Allendale, Michigan, a town of roughly 26,000 people, the sex ed program has been titled. “Willing To Wait,” and holds fast for the “benefits of abstaining from sex until marriage.” Allendale School District Superintendent Garth Cooper stated, “It doesn’t matter what your sexual orientation is. The bottom line is that abstinence is the best and only proven way to keep yourself from getting a sexually transmitted infection or from getting pregnant. And so whether you’re straight or trans or bi, the message is the same.”
But last spring, some parents decided they wanted the school district to change the program to students would discuss LGBTQ issues; a teacher named Tiffany Harp who taught a class titled “Family and Relationships” had spoken with the class about sexual and gender identity. Harp asserted:
I would explain to them how gender identity is your internal sense of what it is to be male or female. And then, for some people, their gender identity sometimes doesn’t align with their biological sex. And kids — when they asked those questions — they were like, “Oh!” Like it made sense to them.
The situation engendered anger among parents, many of whom wanted the sex ed message to champion abstinence until marriage. They attended public hearings to inform the school board and sex ed advisory board of their perspective. One parent said succinctly, “When you fundamentally discredit the very nature of God’s creation of our youth as male and female, you are seeking to discredit God.” Other parents said that teachers introducing LGBTQ+ issues with their children was inappropriate, that sexual issues should be left to children and their parents.
A group arose called CAST — Conservatives of Allendale Stand Together. They released a 29-page complaint to the school board urging the school district eschew LGBTQ+ issues in class, writing, “We believe leading our children to explore LGBTQ issues may have significant physical and mental health ramifications … It is every parent’s natural right to teach their OWN children what they believe in regards to sexuality. It is not the right of a minority of our community to impose their desire for comprehensive sexuality education inclusive of LGBTQ subjects to be taught to OTHER people’s children.”
CAST also sent a statement to National Public Radio (NPR) when NPR asked for their perspective; CAST cited Michigan school code, which states, “It is the natural, fundamental right of parents and legal guardians to determine and direct the care, teaching, and education of their children. The public schools of this state serve the needs of the pupils by cooperating with the pupil’s parents and legal guardians to develop the pupil’s intellectual capabilities and vocational skills in a safe and positive manner.”
Willing to Wait, an abstinence-based program provided free of charge by knowledgeable and skilled professionals, has been taught in Allendale Public Schools for the past 8 years … Both Middle School and High School principals reported a 100% approval rate for Willing to Wait, with no known complaints for the last 8 years … We believe teaching our children issues of sexuality is our responsibility and our privilege, a responsibility and right which does not belong to Michigan schools. Teaching sexuality issues without parental knowledge and/or consent, violates Michigan law. It is every parent’s natural right to teach their OWN children what they believe in regards to sexuality, to “direct the care, teaching, and education of their children”, as outlined by Michigan law.
We value every child, and sexuality education is not a subject that needs to cause division in our community. Disagreement on how we choose to raise our OWN children simply does not equal hate or homophobia. Parents do not need to relinquish their rights to direct the care and upbringing of their children to prove they are a loving individual. Mutual respect and room to allow others to raise their children according to their OWN beliefs on sexuality, is supportive of ALL parents, and is supported by Michigan law.
Willing To Wait notes on its website that 78% of high school students in Michigan have not had sex.