OMAHA — Controversy over health education standards for schools is spilling over into the legislature.
A Nebraska lawmaker introduced a bill (LB768) on Wednesday that would prohibit members of the Nebraska State Board of Education from adopting health education standards for schools.
“I just hear the call of the people,” Sen. Joni Albrecht said in an interview Tuesday.
The bill would restrict the board’s power to develop new standards to the core academic areas of reading, writing, math, science and social studies already authorized by state law.
The state currently has no statewide health education standards. They are developed by local districts.
In addition, the bill would remove the word “comprehensive” from a few passages of Nebraska law dealing with health education in schools.
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Albrecht said the term global was interpreted too broadly.
“I think they think with the full word they can develop whatever they want, but that wasn’t the intention,” she said.
Nebraska Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt said Tuesday he would not comment on the bill until it has been submitted and reviewed by a state board committee.
Board chair Maureen Nickels was unavailable for comment Tuesday night.
Albrecht said the bill would provide a long overdue check to the Nebraska Department of Education.
She said the state council should not adopt health education standards without the express permission of the Legislative Assembly.
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The council should focus on raising standards in the five core subjects it is allowed to develop, she said.
“Everything else should be local control,” she said.
The state board sparked a storm of controversy last year when it proposed new health education standards. There was no legislative mandate to create them.
The proposed standards were intended to be more inclusive and would have taught school children about gender identity and sexual orientation.
The standards were beset by criticism, and board members in September postponed development indefinitely. The vote was 5 to 1, with one abstention, but board members said the standards could be revisited in the future.
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