Nebraska education panel gets taste of emotion that’s fueling health-standards debate | Politics

The State Board on Tuesday felt the passion and emotions burning in Nebraska over medical education standards in schools.

Senator Johnny Albrecht of Thurston has proposed to lawmakers on the Education Committee his bill that deprives the Nebraska Board of Education of the power to write standards.

Albrecht said the legislature should send a “clear and concise” message to the council.

“Unfortunately, public trust has been broken, and now it’s time for the legislature to intervene and restore that trust,” she said.

Committee members testified for about 2 and a half hours, supporters and opponents of the bill took turns. Committee members asked several questions during the hearings.

State standards would be voluntary for counties.

Much of the evidence focused on whether schools should have comprehensive and inclusive health standards, rather than on whether the State Board of Education should have the right to write them.

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Zoe Miller, a witness from Omaha, said comprehensive health education in schools will help prevent suicide, sexual violence, high levels of sexually transmitted infections, and high rates of teenage pregnancy.

“Our health curriculum is in dire need of redesign to be more inclusive and honest, which means we can’t just cater to our medical education for cisgender white men,” Miller said.


Joe Giles, executive director of the Omaha Women’s Foundation, said all young people deserve access to complete, honest, and accurate information to make informed decisions about their health and future.

“Immersing complete information about young people’s health leaves a devastating hole in their education and does not prepare them for life,” she said.

She said 57% of Nebraska children have sex before graduating from high school, but only 8% have ever been tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

Jill Greenquist of Omaha, a wife and mother who supported the bill, said she testified to protecting their children “from individuals and activist organizations who believe their way of teaching children should go beyond the standards of math, science, language and social studies. . “

“I am disappointed,” she said, “that the Nebraska Department of Education cannot be trusted to set educational standards that focus on what is most needed.”

Albrecht asked the committee to pass the bill, LB 768, for consideration by the entire legislature.

The bill would limit the council’s powers to develop new standards to major academic subjects already permitted by state law: reading, writing, math, science, and social studies.

The state currently has no nationwide standards of medical education. They are developed by local districts.

In addition, the bill will clear the word comprehensive from several positions of Nebraska law relating to medical education in schools.

Under the bill, local authorities will continue to be instructed to provide public school students with training in the health care program, but the law will no longer define it as comprehensive.

Under state law, the council is not required to set health standards. In case of approval the standards will be recommended for adoption only by local counties.

The Council has previously approved similar recommended standards, in addition to those provided by law, in the fields of fine arts, physical education, world language and vocational and technical education.

Albrecht said lawmakers have a history of weighing major education issues, such as passing bills on reading and civic education, drug and alcohol abuse and suicide prevention, she said.

“We, as lawmakers, are tackling big things, big things that will change the educational structure in Nebraska,” she said.

Albrecht encouraged committee members to read what was in the first and second draft standards prepared by the Writers Group and the Nebraska Department of Education.

“Take the first draft and take the second draft, and tell me you’re okay if it’s in our school system,” she said.

Contradictory standards have been on the ice since September 3, when board members, faced with a wave of opposition, postponed their development indefinitely. The council voted 7-1 earlier this month against the Albrecht bill.

Board member Maureen Nickels said Tuesday that small school districts do not have the funds to write their own standards and are hoping for help from the state.

Nichols said that health standards are “the only set of standards we have not yet set out in the Department of Education, and I sincerely believe it is important for us to have state standards for every program, for every course we teach there.”

joe.dejka@owh.com, 402-444-1077

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