Jason Martinez, a nurse anesthetist in Nebraska, has work in two hours. It is 4 a.m. and Martinez is sifting through hundreds of pages of government documents he obtained through a public information request. His wife is worried about his sleep, that is until he starts reading aloud the messages, the snide remarks state bureaucrats and their activist allies made as they wrote a curriculum that would teach the couple's daughters, aged 13 and 15, about transgender hormone therapy and the merits of abortion. Mrs. Martinez was no longer worried about her husband, but her children.
"I would have never dreamt a year ago that I would be caught up in something like this," Jason Martinez told the Washington Free Beacon. "It’s terrible. It’s demoralizing. It’s taking away morality for an ultimate agenda."
The emails obtained by Martinez show how a state board of education member successfully lobbied for a deeply connected progressive advocate to participate on the advisory team for the state’s new health standards. Lisa Schulze, a Friends of Planned Parenthood board member and former Planned Parenthood employee, not only served on the advisory board for the standards, but connected members of the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) with national activists to draft the state's sex-education curriculum. The internal communications contradicted the agency's public denial that activists shaped the controversial standards.
When the first draft of the sex-ed proposal was released in March, hundreds of parents rallied at school board meetings. Emails show that NDE employees privately belittled concerned parents. One NDE employee referred to a complaint from a grandmother as "a load of crap" and said, "It’s literally science and anatomy that she has a problem with!!!" The employee told a colleague he would send her a "self-care" package to make up for the distress parents have caused.
"It sucks that there are so many CRAZY people!" an NDE employee emailed a colleague.
The first draft of the standards detailed a plan to teach gender identity in first grade, transgender hormone therapy in fifth grade, sexual orientation in sixth grade, oral and anal sex in seventh grade, and abortion in eighth grade. That draft mirrored a sex-ed curriculum designed by leading liberal groups. Some children's health experts expressed concern about the provocative material in the lesson plan. Dr. Sue Greenwald, a retired pediatrician in Nebraska who worked with childhood victims of sexual abuse for 35 years, said the standards are like a manual on child grooming.
"This is exactly the type of graphic material that a pedophile would use to groom a young child to be their next victim," Greenwald told the Free Beacon. "Young sexual abuse victims do not know they are being abused, they think they are being taught."
NDE said its staffers' private remarks do not reflect the agency's approach to parental feedback, pointing to the curriculum's evolution since the first draft was released.
"Parental engagement is encouraged and sought after," an NDE spokesman said. "We continue to encourage parental engagement, not only with state standards, but also within local communities where decisions about curriculum are made."
Deborah Neary, the state board of education member who coordinated with Schulze, complained to NDE employees and fellow board members that public feedback on the standards played too significant a role in its development. The second draft of the standards toned down some of the language on sexuality but retained lessons on gender identity. Concerned parents continued to press board members on the sex-ed content. Neary, who did not return requests for comment, lamented that parents were able to have any input on what their children are taught.
"Most of the testimony we have heard has been hate-speech—not facts," Neary emailed the education board president. "I hope they are not going to merely leave the decisions up to public testimony as you are asking our board to do."
Martinez began sharing petitions against the standards in March. He eventually met Greenwald and other concerned members of the community. Together they founded a Facebook group called Protect Nebraska Children, which now has more than 21,000 members. Katie McClemens, a mother of four, said the original goal of the group was to make parents aware of the standards.
"They didn’t anticipate the storm that would come against them because for so long they had been able to work in the shadows," McClemens told the Free Beacon.
The state education board suspended the standard draft process during a September meeting. It attributed the decision to concerns about the pandemic rather than public outcry.
Leaders of Protect Nebraska Children said they plan to launch a political action committee to endorse board of education candidates in the state. Justin Thiel, an electrician in rural Nebraska, signed his daughter up for a private school the day he read the standards. He said he hopes parents across the nation follow the lead of Nebraska in taking on activist educators.
"They are counting on us to become complacent," Thiel told the Free Beacon. "Stand up, make yourself heard, go to the board meetings, send emails, make phone calls, and fight for the future of this great country. It takes courage but once you stand you might find yourself surrounded by 20,000 like-minded people ready to protect the innocence of our children."