John Klar: Another look at Vermont’s ‘Essential Topics in Sexual Health Education’

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Vermont’s education system teaches children about sex from an early age: pre-kindergarten. Most parents are unaware of what their children are being taught. One example is the teaching about abstinence.

Vermont’s August 2021 “Essential Topics in Sexual Health Education” was created by the Vermont Sexual Health Stakeholders Group. One would think the most important stakeholders in this subject area were parents and children. However, parents are mostly excluded from knowing what is happening to their children.

The Essential Topics guide includes “Best Practices for Abstinence and SDM Teaching” (p. 12). “SDM” means “Sexual decision-making,” which children are taught they have the “right” to make at any age.

The “best practices for abstinence” reveals that Vermont schools eschew abstinence and other “value-based shaming” about sex, instead encouraging kids to choose how they “feel” about having sex: “Vows of abstinence break far more often than condoms” (p. 15), and children must be taught about all aspects of sexual activity to equip them once they decide to no longer abstain.

While abstinence-only education may be incomplete, that does not mean that the opposite extreme must be embraced — but it is. Vermont’s students are taught that retaining one’s virginity is bad and stigmatizing:

There are many reasons to avoid the concept of virginity. … It is important to remember that virginity has never been enforced equally: cisgender women and girls have always been the focus of the virginity movement and have typically been the people harmed by the enforcement of expectations of virginity. It is also important to recognize that there are different racial stereotypes and experiences of virginity: white women’s virginity has been highly valued historically, while that of BIPOC girls is often undervalued or ignored entirely by a cultural and historical narrative that that paints them as always sexually willing.” (p.13)

The countries with the lowest teen pregnancy rates in the world possess strong social constructs about teen pregnancy, especially North and South Korea: “Although there is a support system in both countries for pregnant teens, social acceptance of such is next to none.”

Vermont children, however, are encouraged to embrace sexual liberation. A new construct is being inculcated in which there is no shame or taboo, virginity is a “child’s personal value” and sexual promiscuity and deviance do not “reflect” on character.

The belief of the Essential Topics in Sexual Health Education guide is expansive sex education of young children will drop teen pregnancy rates, as in the Netherlands. Teachers are instructed to “help youth identify their own values around sexual activity, including abstinence” (p.14). Abstinence restricts true biological liberty, the guide instructs: “Research suggests that it is important for instruction to frame teen sex as normative, rather than pathological. … Lessons should provide information to support students in choosing for themselves when it is the right time to participate in sexual behavior. (p.12).

But by definition, children are not able to “manage health and emotional outcomes,” and their parents are responsible for the consequences when children in their homes become pregnant or infected with STDs.

Essential topics teaches about values. But rather than have children learn their values from parents or faith traditions, the school will teach them how to think: “Help youth identify their own values around sexual activity, including abstinence. Different people have different values about what is right or wrong. Values clarification activities give young people the freedom to truly think about their own values, what feels right, and how to act in accordance with those values.” (p. 14)

This sex instruction about values undermines family and parental values, teaching kids instead to follow “what feels right” and “what’s right for them.”

Defining goals is part of the healthy decision-making process and helping young people identify and navigate their own goals for sexual activity can help them make decisions that are right for them. Important message: Pleasure can be the goal. (p. 15)

Once upon a time, it was considered the province of parent “stakeholders” to instruct their children about values, sexual mores and the risks of doing what “feels good” versus delayed gratification and accountability for consequences. Clearly, Vermont’s public schools have stepped between parents and children in deciding how to morally equip children “for their own good,” including what and when to teach them about sex and abstinence.

Redefining abstinence has consequences for children and their parents. Perhaps the appropriate age for such institutional reconditioning of young children’s minds should be more fully considered.

John Klar is an attorney and farmer residing in Brookfield. © Copyright True North Reports 2022. All rights reserved.

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14 thoughts on “John Klar: Another look at Vermont’s ‘Essential Topics in Sexual Health Education’

  1. Re: the teaching of abstinence.

    My parents, good Catholics both, started practicing abstinence after the first seven kids.

    My sister #5 at age 50 said, “I was born two and a half years after [sister #4]. I was an unwanted child!”

    I sympathized with her and suggested she form a support group with the three others born after her.

    The educational guidelines for teachers are definitely a step in the right direction for parents (and would-be parents) like mine. Teachers probably have no idea how many children they are saving from sexual ignorance, but I can assure them the number is quite high.

  2. All you need to know is in this one sentence: Vermont’s public schools have stepped between parents and children in deciding how to morally equip children “for their own good,…”

    If you don’t understand this, then you have abdicated much of your rights as parents…and you’re not going to like it.

  3. All you need to know is in this one sentence: Vermont’s public schools have stepped between parents and children in deciding how to morally equip children “for their own good,…”

    If you don’t understand this, then you’re going to get what you get…and you’re not going to like it.

  4. It’s the Brave New World script for the current dystopia, the permissive, vs. the 1984 forceful version.
    Voluntary vs. coerced slavery. Either way, it leads to hell on earth.
    I guess those books are not in the curriculum nowadays.
    They were when I was a kid, and they were meant as a warning, not a script, for the future.

  5. The next step is teacher/student legalized pedophilia for up close and personal one on one instruction

  6. Of course, this dystopia can be resolved with one act – universal school choice tuition vouchers – allowing parents to send their children to the schools they believe best meet their needs and interests (public, independent or homeschooled).

    Again, just one act will resolve this issue. No more politics. No more argument. No more school board dissention. Just live and let live.

    School Choice. How can it be simpler than that?

    • Every parent has school choice now. I did not say easy, but it is there. It is a priority issue. Even if you have to move to get a less net-costly place to live, that is still a priority. Don’t wait for the state and others with vested interest in controlling education to give you freedom. Understand that you have it now, you just need to exercise it. Waiting is too costly for your children.

  7. Absurd !!?!!
    Why is it ok for a 14-16 year old girl to become pregnant.
    Who is to support that new child, and the childs mother

    When have we ever welcomed pregnancy in 10th grade, with no way the mother or sperm donor
    can support themselves, to say nothing about supporting their little baby.
    What sperm donor or unwed mother, at 16, can support a ‘family?

    About the same as the dream of jumping off a tall building for the experience of weightless “flying” ?!?!

  8. Great article John. Thank you!

    When I was young, my health teacher wisely instructed that our bodies are wired to reproduce. Our job is to exercise our free will to recognize and appreciate these incredibly strong urges in our bodies and psyches and to say “Thank you very much; but no, not now.” It blows my mind what sex education has morphed into since I was a kid.

    The Essential Topics in Sexual Health Education document you referenced is now posted on the Evidence Library tab at the https://EducationTransparencyVT.org website.

    • Yeah, to strengthen your free will, it helps to remember (as the Texan comedian put it) that “sex is dirty, disgusting and vile, and you have to save it for the woman you marry.”

      • An alternative view is that sex can feel great, but that it is MOST satisfying when it is consciously used for its intended purpose – to conceive a child.

  9. Just think if public indoctrination centers put half the energy they expend on sex ed into actually teaching Math, literature, Science, and History how well our children would be set for the future…

  10. Vermont has now amended the constitution so it’s now legal for teachers to provide physical, one on one and maybe group, instruction. Reproductive autonomy with no age restrictions.

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