Who’s teaching my daughter?

imgresMy 14 year old daughter is in 8th grade…and that moment, as a sexuality educator and a parent, I had been waiting for for years finally arrived. I got THE LETTER. The one where the school district requests permission to teach my daughter sexuality education. So as all engaged parents should do, I requested to see the full program.

And, I’ll be honest, the Big Decisions program could be worse. Here are some pros:

  • Mentions the clitoris! Woohoo! (“Sensitive Bump Allows for Sexual Stimulation”)
  • Provides medically accurate information about contraception
  • Provides medically accurate information about STDs

But the issues are bigger and more numerous. Here are a few:

  • Refers to STDs rather than STIs (I assume this is because the program is out of date, because it does seem to have medical accuracy as a goal.)
  • It’s sex shaming. Hardcore sex shaming. (The definition of sexual contact is: “The intentional touching, either directly or through the clothing, of the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of any person with an intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, or arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.” Why are abuse and arouse both part of the same definition? WTF?)
  • Zero mention of gender or sexual identity. (This is, of course, state law. You can read more about that issue at The Daily Texan.)

And more. So much more. I’ll be honest, I don’t have the energy to dive into the more. It’s depressing.

Here are my options, as a parent in the Austin Independent School District: I can choose to say no to my daughter sitting through these programs or I can choose to say nothing and she will default into them.

My daughter and I have talked through her options, and she’s asked me to say no. Given that we have regular conversations about all of these topics – and so much more – at home and that she’s just finished going through the 30-hour human sexuality class I teach through my business Unhushed, I’m inclined to agree that she shouldn’t sit through the class. I would put money on her knowing more about human sexuality than her teacher. As an incredibly bright young person, my daughter is loath to let falsehoods be stated in the classroom without correcting them, and I can’t imagine this topic would be any different.

Which brings me to this point: When my daughter first started the long class she’s just finishing up with now, she was very upset about it. She just didn’t want to go. Not that the material was gross, not that her mother was teaching it, but that she felt like it was a waste of her time because we talk about these things at home so much. Which is true. But I wanted her to talk about these things with her peers and I wanted her to relax talking about with them with me. So I insisted. And she’s groaned more weekends than not as we prepare to go, but she’s gone every time, and she’s been an engaged student throughout. I’ve seen her grow into the dialogue in class and start to take that dialogue outside of the classroom. She’s become a leader in addressing sexuality information, in pointing out sexism and white supremacy and other social justice issues, and in discussing the ways that sexuality education can and should be taught. In our conversations about the public school human sexuality class, she’s said quite eloquently that were she to stay in the classroom, she would add to the conversation rather than detract from it, but she doesn’t feel it’s her place to do that. It’s a perspective that I’m not sure I entirely agree with, but nor do I feel like it’s my place to tell her that she should.

And so, State of Texas, you may not teach my daughter about human sexuality this year, much to the loss of her classmates.

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.