State releases second draft of health education standards

Julie Davis
Nebraska City News-Press

The Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) released its second draft of proposed health education standards on July 29.

Matthew L. Blomstedt, Ph.D., Nebraska commissioner of education, spoke at a press conference to announce the second draft of the standards were available for review.

“We’re in an opportunity to re-examine the health and well-being of our students across the state,” he said, “and part of that work includes the health standards that have drawn quite a bit of attention of the 

last several months.”

Blomstedt said the NDE has taken “very seriously the public input we’ve received” from individuals, parents, community organizations, and schools, and that the second draft of the standards “has removed many topics considered problematic by people across the state.”

Blomstedt said the NDE expects school districts across the state to develop their curriculums that meet the needs of their students and communities.

“We want to ensure parents, guardians and trusted adults for our students are engaged at the local level,” he said.

Blomstedt said “it’s very unusual” to get as much attention to a first draft of standards as the health education draft that was released in March did, but the attention brought feedback to the NDE, which is the goal of the draft standards process.

“What we’re really trying to do is understand what Nebraska as a whole accepts as a standard and an expectation of what our students learn,” said Blomstedt.

David Jespersen, NDE public information officer, said the NDE board’s next regular meeting is set for Friday, Aug. 6. The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. at the Nebraska Innovation Campus Banquet Hall, 2021 Transformation Dr., Lincoln, or it can be viewed on the NDE YouTube channel. 

“We are valuing public input so greatly with this one,” said Jespersen. “Obviously, people have strong opinions on both sides, and we want to try to find a balance where the majority of folks can say we found a compromise in the middle.”

Public comments on the second draft of the standards will be accepted at the meeting, said Jespersen. People may also take a survey online at  https://nde.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_23uZ81PSLbkRqnk or email comments to nde.standardsinput@nebraska.gov.

The day before the second draft was released by NDE, the Nebraska City Rotary Club heard a presentation by Matt Innis on the creation of the first draft of the standards.

Innis, who also gave a presentation on the Department of Education at Calvary Community Church on July 18, encouraged audience members to do their own research and not just take his word on the standards and their creation.

“Look into it,” he said. “Don’t just take the word of someone you just met speaking at an event.”

Innis expressed concern that the first draft of the standards was “all about grooming kids” to make them easier to exploit or abuse sexually. He also noted that the Nebraska standards were not written by Nebraskans, but rather copied and pasted almost directly from national sex education standards devised by national advocacy groups.

Innis’ presentation also called for the standards to be scrapped and for the NDE to be abolished.

The second draft of the Nebraska health education standards are available for review and input at https://www.education.ne.gov/healthed/health-education-standards-development/. No deadline has been set yet for the comment period to end.

Gov. Pete Ricketts issued a statement on July 29 following news that the NDE had issued a new draft of health education standards.  

“While this new draft of the health education standards scraps many of the topics Nebraskans found objectionable, the standards still need improvement,” said Ricketts.  “For example, this draft proposes to teach the concept of ‘gender identity.’  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.”

“Sex education and other controversial topics should be addressed at home,” said Ricketts. “This responsibility should not be shouldered by teachers in schools.”

“Thank you to the thousands of Nebraskans who have given feedback so far.  Your voices are being heard, and are resulting in meaningful change,” said Ricketts. “I strongly urge the Nebraska Department of Education to refine these standards to remove the lingering issues.  Parents, teachers, and all Nebraskans are encouraged to provide feedback on this new draft as the department continues its work.” 

Matt Innis discussed the first draft of the proposed Nebraska health education standards during the July 27 Nebraska City Rotary Club meeting.