Some Opposition To Sex Ed Curriculum Was ‘Hate Speech,’ Worcester School Committee Member Says

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A member of the Worcester School Committee who voted for a comprehensive sex education curriculum that drew stiff opposition from some parents said some of the public comments against it amount to hate speech.

Tracy O’Connell Novick, whose successful 2019 candidacy was endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts, was one of five members of the committee who voted for a sex education curriculum called Rights, Respect, Responsibility, published by Advocates for Youth, on Thursday, May 6. The committee voted 5-2 in favor of it.

Before the vote, Novick criticized opponents of the sex education curriculum, including some who spoke at the beginning of the school committee meeting that night.

“Regarding public comment, I do think it incumbent to note, that some of what we received, both this evening and at other meetings, was no less than hate speech. And in some cases it was directed at our students. That may be legal in a public forum. But it is unacceptable,” Novick said during the Worcester School Committee meeting on Thursday, May 6. “It has also been quite clear how much motivation by some is based on fear, and concern over loss of control, rather than actual care for our students. It was in many ways a potent illustration of just why we need the comprehensive curriculum before us this evening.”

Novick did not specify which comments she was referring to. As of Monday morning, she had not responded to a request to clarify NewBoston Post made by email early Friday morning.

Twenty-six people spoke against the sex education curriculum during a meeting of a subcommittee of the school committee on Monday, April 26. Twenty-one people spoke against the sex education curriculum on Thursday, May 6 (with some overlap from the previous week’s meeting). (Eighteen spoke in favor of the curriculum on Monday, April 26, followed by 30 on Thursday, May 6, with some overlap from the first meeting.)

Supporters of the sex education curriculum said it provides students with information they need to avoid bad outcomes, including coercive sexual behavior. They also praise it for including its description and affirmation of same-sex and transgender sexuality.

Opponents said the sex education curriculum introduces sexual topics too early for children as young as kindergarten through second grade, and that it normalizes sexual activity for youngsters and degrades human sexuality through its approach.

Of the five Yes votes on the Worcester School Committee last week, three got the endorsement of Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts during the 2019 city election cycle in Worcester:  Novick, Molly McCullough, and Mayor Joseph Petty, who serves as chairman of the school committee.

“These leaders are dedicated to implementing comprehensive sex education in the Worcester Public Schools and improving the health and well-being of all Worcester residents,” Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts said in a written statement August 5, 2019. reported the endorsements this way:  “To earn PPAF’s endorsement … candidates for school committee must champion age-appropriate, medically accurate comprehensive sex education.”

Two other candidates for school committee endorsed by Planned Parenthood Fund of Massachusetts (Cara Berg Powers and John Trobaugh) did not win election that year.

Six of the seven seats on the Worcester School Committee are available every odd year for a two-year term.

Ten candidates have taken out nomination papers to run for six available seats on the Worcester School Committee in the city elections later this year.

Of the Yes votes last week, Novick and McCullough have already returned more than the 300 signatures of registered Worcester voters needed to make the ballot. Another Yes vote, Laura Clancey, has also taken out nomination papers to run.

John Foley, who also voted Yes, is not running for re-election.

Of the No votes, Dianna Biancheria has taken out papers to run for re-election. John Monfredo, another No vote, is not running for re-election.

The deadline for returning nomination papers with signatures is Tuesday, May 11.