The Washoe County School District (WCSD) Board in Reno, Nevada, has adopted a new Sexuality Health And Responsibility Education (S.H.A.R.E.) curriculum for fourth and fifth-grade students, integrating inclusive language that refers to males and females as “boys and people with a penis” and “girls and people with a vulva.”
Approved with a 5-to-2 vote, this educational approach generated extensive public discussion, with reactions ranging from support to strong disapproval.
WCSD starts sex education in the fourth grade and continues through to the senior year of high school. The new curriculum introduces the concepts of “Assigned Sex At Birth (Male)” and “Assigned Sex At Birth (Female)” to fifth graders. As per the curriculum, the fourth graders will now be learning about these topics with the phrases “Body with a Penis” and “Body with a Vulva” instead of the traditional binary terms.
Board trustee Jeffrey Church, who voted against the proposal, stated, “The proposal goes well beyond that by including LGBTQ+ material and changing male and female or boys and girls to for example ‘Girls and people with a Vulva.’” He urged for the curriculum to revert to traditional male-female terminologies, arguing that the new ones would “alienate and marginalize half or more of the community” and “ignore constitutional religious beliefs.”
The Board’s president, Ben Smith, expressed the importance of acknowledging diverse perspectives on sex education, assuring that Nevada protects parental choice in the matter. Parents, he asserted, hold the final say in their children’s education, and would be given the choice to opt their children into the new curriculum.
The public response to the curriculum has been mixed. While some find the change progressive and necessary, others see it as unnecessary, absurd, and potentially confusing for children. There are those who find the curriculum “infantile,” lacking biological accuracy and prematurely sexualizing young students. Some critics have stated that the new language could engender confusion among children, potentially influencing their perceptions of gender norms in a negative way.
In addition, WCSD has implemented a voluntary teacher training program, “Brave Space,” designed to prepare educators to tackle sensitive topics. The district also has policies to respect and protect the identity of transgender and gender non-conforming students, even against parental opposition.