Battle Ground Public Schools’ pursuit of a scientifically and medically accurate sexual education curriculum has caught the attention of a far-right, anti-LGBT organization.
The Lynnwood-based Family Policy Institute of Washington last month released a five-minute video featuring parents lambasting the district for its consideration of the High School FLASH curriculum, a widely used and well-regarded sex education program.
The Battle Ground school board voted in July to table the adoption of FLASH, or “Family Life and Sexual Health,” as well as a general health textbook under public pressure to delay the decision. Conservative critics argue that its lessons on gender identity and sexual orientation — which the district later said it was never planning to offer in the first place — were inappropriate for children.
The district is currently running a survey through Sunday asking parents for their feedback as it weighs sex education curricula vetted by the state and deemed to be compliant with scientific and legal standards. In the meantime, the district’s textbooks are 13 years out of date. Battle Ground is Clark County’s third-largest district, with an enrollment of about 13,500 students.
If the FPIW’s video, titled “Parents Fighting Back Against Gender Identity Doctrine,” is any indication, selecting and adopting a sexual health curriculum is unlikely to be easy for the north Clark County district.
FPIW is best known for its transphobic and homophobic rhetoric and lobbying. The group maintains gender identity and sexual orientation are a choice. Its founder, Joseph Backholm, who has since left the organization, defended conversion therapy. Backholm and the group also spearheaded the failed effort to place an initiative on the 2016 ballot that would have restricted bathroom and locker-room access for transgender people.
The medical community has largely acknowledged and validated the health care needs of transgender people, including gender-affirming treatments such as hormone therapy and sex-reassignment surgery. The World Health Organization also declassified gender incongruence as a mental illness earlier this year.
The video, which has apparently been viewed 100,000 times, features several parents who testified at the July meeting, including one who falsely claims the FLASH curriculum was the only one the state would allow the district to adopt. Washington’s requirements for sexual health education are narrow. Under the AIDS Omnibus Act, schools need only teach students scientifically accurate information about HIV and AIDS prevention, and sexual health education is actually not required at all. If sex education is offered, school districts must include information about abstinence and other forms of FDA-approved birth control.
And in the video’s opening seconds, one man compares the adoption of FLASH with anti-Christian persecution in the Soviet Union while historic footage of an immigration boat plays underneath his words.
Chris Plante, chief operating officer and policy director, stood behind the video.
“What the parents are understanding or experiencing here in Washington bring those echoes,” he said. “There is no problem echoing that within the imagery.”
Plante also downplayed the organization’s role in Battle Ground at all, calling the video reflective of a grassroots effort by parents the FPIW was only documenting.
“What’s wonderful in this case is these parents have taken it upon themselves,” Plante said. “We didn’t provide any resources to them. We’ve told their story.”