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Nevada county school district spends over $13K to discuss sex-ed program

LAS VEGAS — The Clark County School District spent over $13,000 this year to discuss the child sex-education advocacy program that made headlines when it was reported that the district was considering teaching masturbation to Kindergartners.

The amount CCSD spent on the program led by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) comes from documents released by CCSD in response to public-record requests.

Over $9,750 went to pay SIECUS to provide “professional facilitation” in multiple CCSD focus groups, according to two purchase orders. Printed materials for the events cost another $3,328.

A CCSD purchase order dated May 29, 2014, authorized spending of $2,448 with SIECUS for its representatives to “impact” approximately 100 individuals during a single eight-hour day. Another purchase order, dated Sept. 2, approved spending $7,344 for SIECUS to “impact” individuals “at various High Schools [sic]” over three 8-hour days. Although that purchase order says 20 individuals were to be “impacted,” that may be a typo. An attendee told Nevada Journal “120” was the real number.

According to the purchase orders, CCSD paid SIECUS a rate of $306 an hour.

For printed materials to be used in the SIECUS-run focus groups, the district spent $3,327.99.

Attendees at the focus groups — called “forums” by SIECUS — were separated into small groups, each of which was assigned a prospective sex-education topic that SIECUS has defined as a “gap” in Nevada law.

Participants were then directed to first discuss the topic, and then enter the group’s collective opinion onto the data-collection sheets — checking “agree,” “disagree” or “neutral” regarding whether that subject matter should become part of CCSD’s sex-education curriculum for particular age groups.

This process was described on the school district’s purchase orders as “qualitative data collection” by SIECUS. The quality of such data, however, is open to question, given that — as the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported — participation in the process was largely restricted by CCSD and SIECUS to pre-selected, by-invitation-only individuals.

A SIECUS website page also appears to confirm such a limited and targeted outreach — describing those selected to participate as “LGBTQ activists, LDS members and others with religious affiliations, home-school advocates, teachers, and community educators.

“Most [attendees] identified as parents of students attending district schools,” according to the SIECUS article.

However, Erin Phillips, a parent who’d participated in one of the May sessions and another in September, told Nevada Journal that in May she had actually seemed to be the only current parent of a CCSD student present at that first forum.

Both of the other individuals in her small, three-person group in May were activists clearly committed to changing CCSD’s sex-ed curriculum and state law, Phillips said. One was a female attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union who said she was not a parent, while the other individual Phillips described as an “obviously homosexual” male CCSD employee who shared how eager he was to be appointed to the district’s state-mandated sex-education advisory committee.

Phillips said she spoke afterwards to school board Trustee Carolyn Edwards, under whose auspices that particular forum had been held, about the absence of actual parents among the roughly two-dozen participants in that forum. Edwards told her, according to Phillips, that she had invited 17 parents but Phillips and a former teacher whose students had long ago graduated were the only ones who had come.

That SIECUS web page, however, credits Edwards herself with being the stimulus behind CCSD’s invitation to the organization:

A progressive president of the school Board of Trustees, Carolyn Edwards … charged district administrators with the task of preparing Clark County schools for possible changes if state law requires them.

Although Edwards was president of the school board during the 2013 calendar year, not this year, it is not clear that the Nevada Legislature is eager to write such changes into state law. While legislation introduced during the 2013 session to do that, Assembly Bill 230, did pass the Assembly on a strict party-line vote — all Rs voting no and Ds voting yes — the state Senate declined to even give it a hearing, perhaps because of the body’s thin, one-person Democrat majority.

Phillips — who subsequently, with other parents, established Power2Parent.com, a website about the push to change Nevada’s K-12 sex-education curriculum — calls “disingenuous” the rationale that CCSD had to be prepared in case state law is changed.

It was a line, she says, also coming from school district staff during the forums: “You know, we’ve been looking at AB 230 and anticipating that there will be changes coming, and so we’re trying to get ahead of the game.”

“But that’s clearly not what they were trying to do,” argues Phillips, “because it clearly doesn’t make any logical sense to start talking to people like SIECUS” and exploring such comprehensive change “when the law has not changed, and when AB 230 was not passed.

“What they’re really trying to do,” she contends, “is what happened in Lincoln County, Nebraska, where they basically pushed parents aside, [thinking] … If they can sneak it past parents, they don’t have to deal with all the fallout ….”

Indeed, school board Trustee Erin Cranor, told the Review-Journal that she had fought, unsuccessfully, all summer, for the district to make the input meetings public.

“If we’re looking for public comment, shouldn’t we invite the public?” Cranor said. “I was really upset they went ahead. We’re a public organization and need to do business in public.”

As of Oct. 29, Nevada was still specifically mentioned on the front page of the SIECUS website, under the heading, “Community Action Updates.”

The first link takes one to a SIECUS web page titled: “Nevada: Masturbation Misinformation Campaign Follows Clark County Confabs.”

Its first three paragraphs focus on the presence in the school district of “many communities whose local politics are influenced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), also known as Mormons” and the “outsize influence” of the “LDS Church.”

Apparently SIECUS is still smarting over the success of parents in contesting the organization’s influence in Clark County.

Nevada Journal sought comment from CCSD Trustee Edwards, who a CCSD spokesperson later said was unavailable today because of conflicting obligations.

As an alternative, however, the spokesperson asked that Nevada Journal link readers to Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky’s recent “broken trust” letter to the community and also to the alternative approach to community engagement the district is now pursuing.

Steven Miller is the managing editor of Nevada Journal. For more, visit NevadaJournal.com.

Featured image form Shutterstock

Nevada Policy Research Institute

The Nevada Policy Research Institute is a free-market think tank that seeks private solutions to public challenges facing Nevada, the West and the nation. The Institute's primary areas of focus are education and fiscal policy, with the goal of advancing free-market principles in both. NPRI has offices in Las Vegas, but scholars and writers from all over Nevada and the nation contribute to our mission. Twitter: @NevadaPolicyRI

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