Fairfax County’s schools are reviving a curriculum that includes resources on pedophilia, after a social studies department recently forced sex education teachers to delete materials online that contained sexually explicit images.
The district’s decision to un-revoke the books drew criticism from teachers and students, who warned that the books will help young adults understand the mindset of sexual predators.
“Obviously, there’s pornography and some questionable or illegal materials, but these also show a lot of people enjoying the sex that they’re having, whether it’s of consenting adults or just engaging in general dangerous sex behaviors,” said Joshua Gaskin, a senior at Westfield High School.
The re-admission of the curriculum comes days after Fairfax County Board of Supervisors member Katie Cristol sent a letter to Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Starr, requesting that the district “issue a public statement affirming the School Board’s belief that the books aren’t inappropriate.”
Our schools are not currently teaching our students the crucial life skills and tools necessary to understand and assess the risk factors associated with this complex human behavior. As a school district we should be providing all students with a safe, supportive environment to learn from essential and reliable sources that will help them to identify and understand their risk factors, and to reduce their vulnerability to abuse. In order to help all students understand the dynamics and consequences of sexual abuse, schools must not rely on textbooks that make blanket assumptions and offer simplistic definitions. The dissemination of unreliable resources or flawed information could lead to a school district-wide failure to educate students on the dangers posed by sexual abuse.
Following the outcry, Fairfax County Superintendent Jonathan Starr announced a policy change regarding the textbook series.
“We believe the sexually explicit references in the texts do not address the issues of sexual and mental health that we expect our students to consider as they prepare for the student development experience,” Starr said in a letter to schools board members.
“We are ordering the reissue of the student development guide without the content of the offensive curriculum material and announcing this directly to our school social workers, teachers, and students as appropriate.”
Signed copies of the textbook guides were sent to school social workers and teachers in order to “ensure we have not had negative impacts from content that was not included,” according to Dr. James Head, a board member and chair of the Humanities and Language Arts Committee, which placed the offending curriculum on hold.
The textbook guide, which calls for examples of “types of abuse” and “actives” or “petters,” may still be found on websites and social media platforms, but will no longer be added as new students start entering classes, Head said.
Head said that keeping the images in the texts was the “appreciable penalty” for inappropriate content – and that the intent of the curriculum is always the same.
“When you’re talking about understanding the reasons and behaviors behind sexual and mental health, it’s really important to not make a blanket statement about any single act of a sexual predator,” Head said.