State Superintendent Questions Curriculum Standards at Missoula Schools After Student Sexual Orientation Questionnaire Surfaces

In a call from State Superintendent Elsie Arntzen Wednesday night, the head of the Office of Public Instruction told Free Missoula News that her office was notified of the sexual orientation questionnaire shared by a Missoula sex education teacher at Sentinel High School and that the matter is being investigated by her office. Arntzen said that the OPI and the Governors office had received multiple complaints from parents including reports of a similar situation at Shelby Public Schools.

Arntzen called Missoula County Public Schools Superintendent Rob Watson on Wednesday and left a message with his office to discuss the matter. The State Superintendent also contacted school administration at Shelby Public Schools.

The OPI wants to find out why and for what purpose the questionnaire was handed out to students and to learn what policy allowed the Missoula teacher the use, in the classroom, of the questionnaire that Arntzen described as not meeting state standards.

Arntzen reviewed curriculum standards set out by the OPI and did not find mention of sexual orientation in the health or science curriculum. “I reviewed the K-12 Content Standards for Health and Science and found no reference to gender identity, homosexuality or heterosexuality,” Arntzen said.

The state Content Standards are a set of subject-matter specific curriculum guides and resources for local schools and educators building their own curriculums. Arntzen acknowledged that local schools and teachers have the ability to write their own curriculum that supplement state standards. Missoula County Public Schools also has curriculum standards for Health and Science and neither standard mentions sexual orientation or gender identity.

Last month, the Missoula County Public Schools Board of Trustees removed their own oversight of school instructional materials by striking part of the language in School Board Policy 2311 that previously read, “Core instructional materials shall be selected by the Superintendent, or designee, and adopted by the Board prior to their use.” The policy was updated to read, “The selection of other instructional materials is not subject to board approval.”

Arntzen also wants to learn whether or not the teacher provided parents with the opportunity to decline the controversial lesson on sexual orientation. “We also want to find out if the parents were notified using an opt-in or opt-out,” Antzen said. “Because if the note does not get home to the parents they do not have the ability to opt in or out.”

Arntzen said that she wants parents and schools to know that she is taking the matter seriously and that her goal is to find the truth and remediate the situation. “This isn’t about us versus them,” Arntzen said. “This is about seeking the truth and then putting our children’s well-being in the center of the conversation.”

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