Christian Curriculum

Examining Family Life Education Lessons Through a Catholic Lens

Every year, John Murray, a parishioner at St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax, reads every Family Life Education (FLE) lesson taught to Fairfax County Public School students. Then he rates each lesson on a red, yellow, or green scale depending on whether the information is useful and accurate, or promotes a view of sexuality contrary to the Catholic faith. The results are published on parentandchild.org, a website created by Murray and other parents whose children have attended or are attending Fairfax County public schools.

Some of FLE’s lessons are helpful, Murray said. But by and large, students aren’t being presented with a view of family life that shows the ideal of two people falling in love, getting married and starting a family together, he said. “I’ve done a word search a few times on this – the words bride and groom don’t come up in the whole program,” he said. “The word marriage makes an appearance, under the heading ‘Stressful events.’ ”

Students are made aware of contraception, sexually transmitted diseases and transgender. “I have a degree in biology and trained in crisis pregnancy counseling,” Murray said. “By reading the FLE courses, they encourage behaviors that send women to pregnancy resource centers. (The point of view they present is) basically sex with a shrug.

A lesson designed for children with special needs is of particular concern, Murray said. “One slide shows a boy in a sweater and pants changing into a dress,” he said. “Children with autism and others (are) particularly vulnerable to suggestions that they were born in the wrong body.” A recent study by Nature Communications shows that people who identify as transgender or non-binary are three to six times more likely to have autism. “For the county to throw that slide in there and risk nudging vulnerable students with special needs in that direction is unconscionable,” he said.

Parents can exclude their child from any particular FLE course. Murray hopes they will use the annual review to see which lessons are right for their child. “None of that is my calling,” he said. “We’re just trying to encourage parents to dig into this program and see what they think about it.”