Parents asking for transparency from Indiana school districts regarding explicit material

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Indianapolis — Most parents remember their sexual education lesson in school on the birds and the bees. 

Today more districts use a different approach to sex education called comprehensive sexuality education, incorporating sexual education into various subject discussions, classroom assignments, and school libraries. 

Some parents say these lessons are going too far and they are calling for more transparency and accountability from districts. 

You may remember, during a Carmel Clay school board meeting in July, parents read from books they say are inappropriate for their children and it set off a firestorm.  Parents in other districts around the state started checking the content of their children’s sex education curriculum. They are also looking at books available in the library that could be associated with class assignments. 

Some parents, like Ben Orr who will be representing parents in Washington, D.C. at Parents Defending Education, said they had no idea students in elementary, middle, and high schools are being exposed to this kind of material.  Orr has children in 5th and 7th grade. “I’ll be the first to say we should have been paying more attention for a long time.” Orr went on to say, “This has nothing to do with health class or biology or reproduction or any of these things. It really comes back to where did the academics go? Where is the focus on academics.” 

A former teacher, Jennifer McWilliams, is joining parents in demanding transparency from school districts. She said, “They are desensitizing children to this sexual lifestyle.” 

Purple for Parents educates parents and advocates for the protection of children when it comes to sex education and sexual grooming. Rhonda Miller is working with parents in Hamilton County and across the state, along with Diane Eaton a former Hamilton Southeastern school board member. Eaton is currently leading Fishers One. The two are part of what they call a growing awareness across Indiana including in Avon, Danville, Brownsburg, Greenfield, Greenwood, all calling for increased transparency and accountability when it comes to obscenity in school material.  

Eaton says, “The lack of parent involvement and oversight is what’s happening. Parents need to ask to be on committees to review books.  We believe they are coming through the media specialists. In most of the libraries they are the ones who select the books. Many schools do not have a process or policy for selecting books.”  

Indiana schools are required to teach abstinence outside of marriage as sex education. However, parents who contacted FOX59 say some districts mention abstinence, and then teach other various sexual behavior as an alternative to abstinence at all grade levels.  

According to Indiana code IC 35-49-3-3 distributing obscenity and pornography to minors is illegal, and in some cases could lead to a level 6 felony charge. However, Indiana is 1 of at least 43 states with an exemption to the obscenity code.  

IC 35-49-3-4  provides a defense for prosecution for public schools and libraries. That means material parents are finding in some classrooms and libraries, can be distributed to your children as long as it’s done in a school or library as part of an education curriculum, like comprehensive sexuality education. Outside those parameters it’s a crime, according to Indiana law. 

Parents like Ben Orr say they are not against sex education. They just want transparency and a seat at the table when decisions are being made about books and curriculum. 

State Senator Jim Tomes wrote legislation challenging the obscenity exemption in Indiana last session. It made it out of the education committee, but didn’t go farther. Parents have been meeting with State Sen. Tomes and other legislators. State Sen. Tomes plans to introduce a bill during this upcoming session now that more parents are speaking out.

State Sen. Tomes says, “An unsuspecting parent would not know perhaps that their children are being exposed to this.  They wouldn’t want them on the internet seeing this. Why wouldn’t they be upset that behind their back this is taking place in their schools or public libraries. If you do this kind of activity, if you expose our kids to this kind of stuff you will answer for it.”

We reached out to several school districts:

Noblesville

We are legally required to notify parents prior to any sexual education program. Parents are able to review sexual education curriculum and, if they choose, opt their children out of this programming.

Regarding library materials, we use a comprehensive process to evaluate new materials and also to review existing materials if a concern is raised. The process can be found on our website. Per this process, we encourage parents who have concerns about specific library materials to contact their library media specialist and/or principal. 

Center Grove

Center Grove is responsive to our families and community regarding concerns with book availability in our building and digital libraries. We are in a continual review process for which books are available across elementary, middle, and high schools, as appropriateness should be reviewed not only by reading level but also for students’ age and maturity.  Additionally, our district has expanded our book hold system to support families in ensuring their children are checking out books which parents feel are appropriate for their children.

Assistant Superintendent of Teaching & Learning, Nora Hoover, Ph.D.:

Hamilton Southeastern

Hamilton Southeastern Schools adheres to Indiana Academic Standards and recommendations regarding Health and Wellness education.

The eight standards that are taught PK-12 are as follows: 

Standard 1: Students will comprehend concepts related to health promotion and disease prevention to enhance health.

Standard 2: Students will analyze the influence of family, peers, culture, media, technology, and other factors on health behaviors.

Standard 3: Students will demonstrate the ability to access valid information, products, and services to enhance health.

Standard 4: Students will demonstrate the ability to use interpersonal communication skills to enhance health and avoid or reduce health risks.

Standard 5: Students will demonstrate the ability to use decision-making skills to enhance health.

Standard 6: Students will demonstrate the ability to use goal-setting skills to enhance health.

Standard 7: Students will demonstrate the ability to practice strategies and skills to enhance personal health and reduce health risks.

Standard 8: Students will demonstrate the ability to advocate for personal, family, and community health.

In addition, our high school students take a required Health class that also follows State Standards.

You can learn more about the standards, here: https://www.doe.in.gov/standards/health-and-wellness

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