Sexual education proposal at center of primary for Nebraska State Board of Education

Three candidates are running in the primary election for Nebraska State Board of Education District 7 on May 10, 2022. Those candidates are incumbent Robin Stevens, Pat Moore, and Elizabeth Tegtmeier. The two candidates to receive the most votes in the primary will advance to the general election on Nov. 8, 2022.

Stevens faced no opposition in 2018. Before serving on the board, he was an educator for 40 years, most recently as the superintendent of Schuyler Community Schools. Moore is a retired pastor. Tegtmeier is a former public school teacher who left the classroom to homeschool her children.

At the center of this primary is a March 2021 proposal that would have established statewide K-12 health education standards. The proposal included teaching all students about gender identity and stereotypes. High school students would have also learned about homophobia, transphobia, and sexual assault.

Supporters of the draft included the Women’s Fund of Omaha and OutNebraska, an LGBTQ advocacy group. Opponents of the draft included Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) and 28 members of the Nebraska State Senate. Ricketts and at least 14 state senators have endorsed Tegtmeier.

A second draft released in July 2021 eliminated the references to gender and sexuality opposed by Ricketts and state senators. In September 2021, the board voted 5-1 to pause the process of developing these new standards indefinitely. Stevens was one of the five who voted to pause the process.

Stevens told the Lexington Clipper-Herald that the board needed to re-establish public trust. “We didn’t do a good job early on of getting the health standards out to people, it hurt us and it hurt us badly. I understand that,” he said.

Tegtmeier said at a campaign event in Gothenburg that she chose to run in this election after hearing state Sen. Mike Groene speak about the proposed health standards. “I didn’t want to get 10 years down the road and have to tell my kids that I thought about doing something but just didn’t do it,” she said.

Moore told the Omaha World-Herald that the proposed health standards showed the board needed change. Moore said, “Some of the processes that have been in place I believe need challenged and some of the thinking the board members have need challenged.”