By Christy Barritt
Chicago Public Schools Expand Sex Education
A new policy approved by the Chicago Board of Education will allow sex education to expand and include kindergarten, while also teaching older students about sexual orientation and gender identification.
Under this new policy, kindergarteners and first-graders will learn about anatomy and personal safety, such as how to distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate touch. By fourth grade, students will study puberty as well as the causes of HIV transmission.
Since 2000, the number of HIV diagnoses for 15-19 year olds in Chicago has increased by more than 40 percent, a fact many proponents of the policy have cited in an effort to get this expansion passed.
Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the CEO of CPS, said during a school board meeting, “It is important that we provide students of all ages with accurate and appropriate information, so that they can make healthy choices.”
Many in the community—and across the country—are speaking out against this policy.
Student-led Prayers Permitted in Mississippi
Students in Mississippi Public Schools are now allowed to lead prayer during school hours.
The decision came in March after the Mississippi Legislature passed a bill that prohibits public schools in the state from discriminating against a student’s expression of religious beliefs.
The bill also allows for the voluntary student expression of religious viewpoints in public schools and in class assignments. Additionally, students have the freedom to organize religious groups, gatherings, and activities before, during, and after the school day and to wear clothing, accessories, and jewelry that display religious messages or symbols.
The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to the school district in October warning those in leadership to back down. Despite its threat of legal action, the State Senate voted 50-1 to pass the bill.
Elementary Student Wins Free Speech Rights
An elementary school student has won a court case stemming from the distribution of Christmas party invitations during school hours.
In 2010, a Pennsylvania fifth grader tried to hand out invitations to a Christmas party at her church. Her teacher intervened and told her she needed the principal’s permission first.
The school’s principal informed the student’s father that the flier had not been approved. The school district claimed that they have a literature distribution policy that prohibits students from handing out fliers.
Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on behalf of the student in March 2011. After going through several courts, an appeals court ruled in favor of the student and found that the school’s policies were unconstitutional.
“A flier cannot be banned just because some element of religious faith is part of it,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. “On the contrary, the First Amendment specifically protected religious speech.”
Christian Photographer Goes to Court
A court case is underway involving a photographer who refused to take pictures of a same-sex ceremony because of her Christian beliefs.
In 2006, Elaine Huguenin of New Mexico refused to photograph a same-sex ceremony between two women. One of the women involved in the ceremony filed a complaint against the photographer with the state’s Human Rights Commission. Even though same-sex unions, as well as civil unions and domestic partnerships, are not recognized in New Mexico, the commission ordered Huguenin to pay more than $6,000 to the plaintiff for engaging in “sexual orientation” discrimination, which is prohibited by state law.
The case went before an appeals court in 2012, where it was ruled that the photographer violated state law.
The New Mexico Supreme Court has now agreed to review the case.
Christy Barritt is an award-winning author, freelance writer, and speaker living in Chesapeake, Virginia. She and her husband Scott have two sons.