No, a VA School District Didn’t Remove “Clergy” from a List of Trusted Adults

Conservative groups are upset because a school board in Fairfax County, Virginia issued new, more inclusive guidelines on how to teach students about sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Fairfax County Public Schools board voted 10-1 to change the dress code to include gender-neutral language and update the way they teach sex education to students in grades 8-10. One of the changes also reportedly removes “clergy” from a list of trusted adults with whom kids should discuss issues related to sex and gender. (More on that in a moment.)

The county’s curriculum currently teaches that “biological sex” is one of four parts of individual identity, according to a local NBC affiliate. But that’s not always the case, which is why the change was necessary.

The change to the Family Life Education Curriculum would replace “biological sex” with “sex assigned at birth.” The new curriculum will go into effect for the 2018-2019 school year.

English teacher Mary Mathewson said she supports the change in the curriculum because it makes the distinction clearer between the sex one is assigned and their gender identity. The updated lesson would create space for transgender students, she said.

“I saw one too many kids struggle with not being accepted for who they are,” Matthewson said.

The progressive move is aimed at protecting an already vulnerable community. Bullying and suicide are huge issues among trans students, largely because of peer bullying and institutionalized discrimination, so this revision is a welcome one.

But whenever there’s a good idea leading to greater inclusion, there are bound to be people against it. In this case — and you’re never going to believe this — it’s the Catholic Diocese of Arlington and the Fairfax County Republican Committee.

“A lot of the people who are opposed to the change are making the point that what we want the kids to learn is biology, not ideology,” Father Thomas P. Ferguson of the Arlington diocese said.

Religious groups also objected to the proposed removal of the word “clergy” from a list of adults students are recommended to go to with questions about sexual orientation or identity.

“To narrow rather than expand for young people who they might turn to as trusted adults is unfortunate,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson didn’t his homework.

If you look at the actual proposal, members of the clergy are suggested as potential trustworthy adults in situations that include when students are dealing with rocky relationships.

When it comes to “sexual orientation and gender identity,” however, instead of urging students to talk to a “parent, member of the clergy, trusted adult, or counselor,” the list was just simplified to “talk with a parent or trusted adult.”

This wasn’t an anti-clergy move, just as it wasn’t anti-counselor. They just condensed the language. Why list trusted adults, counselors, and clergy members in separate groups when the latter two could fall under the first category? If you trust your pastor, then great! Go talk to your pastor! That person qualifies as a trusted adult!

People like FOX News’ Todd Starnes are perpetuating the lie that this district hates religious leaders, but it’s actually telling how he thinks there’s a difference between “trusted adults” and “clergy.” There’s no reason to believe the district thinks that at all.

The district’s change will benefit transgender students. If we take it to an extreme, it could even prevent suicide or self-harm. Yet religious conservatives, certain that this district is hell-bent on spreading liberal ideology rather than just creating a safe environment for all students, are fighting against it.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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