After years of actively pushing controversial sexualized material into classrooms, the Fairbanks School Board seems to have noticed how costly this cultural war has become.
At its June 6 meeting, the board voted to approve two health books for middle school and high school, but narrowly rejected adding two supplemental sex-ed resources, which would have given teachers the option of initiating conversations and lessons promoting LGBTQ sexuality, abortion, masturbation and other sex-themed issues.
The unexpected 4-3 vote came despite the school district administration’s strong recommendation that the board approve both the new health books and the controversial supplemental materials.
School Board President Chrya Sanderson joined the three conservative leaning board members – April Smith, Maggie Matheson and Melissa Burnett – in nixing the supplemental materials, while approving the more standard health books. Hard-left members Erin Morotti, Brandy Harty and Tim Doran voted to include the explicit sex curriculum.
Fairbanks faces steep and declining enrollment and a budgetary crisis that has led to massive teacher layoffs and the shuttering of several schools. A distinct factor in all this is parental outrage over school district’s embrace of radical, leftist social agendas – especially around sexuality.
The public comment period prior to the recent vote included an appearance by Fairbanks Borough Assemblywoman Barbara Haney. She spoke to the enrollment problem, noting that families have many other options when it comes to education, including various statewide homeschool programs which are entirely independent of the Fairbanks public school system.
Haney began by saying the supplemental sex-ed materials were inappropriate for students and should not be included in the overall health classes. To do so would only drive additional families to homeschool programs such as IDEA or Raven, thereby gutting the district of more students, as well as the state and federal education funding that follows each child.
“If you’re trying to build enrollment for IDEA, adopt the supplement [sex-ed books],” she said. “Because I tell you what, IDEA and Raven and all those programs will have a huge surge in their enrollment. I’m just going to be honest with you. I guess I wouldn’t have to worry about the budget next year too much, because most of your students will be in other programs. I really urge you to not to adopt the supplement.”
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School Board Member Smith echoed these concerns, emphasizing to her colleagues that the district simply can’t afford a new round of parental backlash.
“The trust of the public is the cost,” she said. “Everything you hear about people who are anti-public education are about these kinds of things.”
At one point in the meeting, staff from the district’s teaching and learning department admitted there had been very little public input regarding the health books. In fact, only about 35 members of the public had reviewed the materials before the district recommended the books to the school board.