Assessing the 2023 Massachusetts Expanded Health Care Curriculum: Concerns and Implications

On September 19, 2023, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) approved the updated 2023 Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Curriculum (hereafter “Frameworks”).

The 54-page Frameworks are more extensive than can be discussed in detail here, but we highlight the following excerpts to explain the danger this curriculum presents to students and parents/guardians of children in grades Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12:

These radically revised health education standards seek to replace parental guidance and decision making with teachers in a classroom and autonomous children. At the very outset, pre-kindergarten through Grade 2 students will be instructed in how to “[u]se medically accurate names for body parts, including genitals….” Frameworks [2.2.PH] and are encouraged to “[s]elf advocate to have personal health needs met (e.g., needing to wash hands, asking for sun protection….” ) Frameworks [2.7.PH]. The emphasis on self-advocacy in health care is reinforced in every successive curriculum bracket: Grades 3-5; Grades 6-8; and Grades 9-12. One might rightly infer that this early and repetitive instruction is meant to groom children to confidently advocate for health care for themselves in later years, without parental involvement, and for more serious health concerns, such as an unplanned pregnancy. But such inference is not necessary because the Frameworks admits that encouraging self-advocacy and health promotion in children is done so that “students can recognize their own…health needs…and effectively address those needs on their own.” Frameworks, p. 15 (emphasis supplied).

The Frameworks acknowledges that “the standards do not provide all the details…or knowledge that may be part of a curriculum.” Frameworks, p.9. This omission is particularly troubling because parents and guardians cannot know exactly what is being taught in health curriculum that focuses heavily on sexual health and sexual activity. For generations, instructing children in these matters has been the recognized province and natural responsibility of parents, guardians, and other close family members, using their best judgment as they saw fit for their children. In presuming to instruct youngsters in these highly sensitive and personal subjects, the public school system and its teachers force parents to the sidelines as the authorities on these matters. When parental beliefs and moral values have to compete with what “teacher said,” the result can be very confusing for children, who are caught between the two power centers in their young lives. Parents and guardians must be prepared to speak up and take action to prevent this from happening.

Another disturbing goal of the Frameworks is to ensure “students know how to use health products (e.g….reproductive health products…) in ways appropriate for the given situations,” Frameworks, p.14, so they “can seek out health services and resources that are culturally relevant and responsive to their needs for both themselves and others….In upper grades, students may learn how to identify and use community resources to support health care needs or develop coping strategies.” Frameworks, p.15. Does “community resources” include instruction in the judicial bypass procedure in which a girl under the age of 16 can secure an abortion without parental consent or knowledge? It could and likely does.

In the Standards for Grades 3-5, students will learn to “use valid, reliable, and medically accurate resources (e.g. school nurse, doctor, digital resources, health teacher, community organizer) to find information about human reproductive systems, human sexual development and the effects of hormones (e.g…sexual feelings).” Frameworks, [5.6.SH]. Notably missing from the list of accurate resources are parents and guardians, reinforcing the conclusion that the curriculum is designed to remove parents and guardians from the discussion.

In Grades 6 through 8, the curriculum addresses prevention of sexually transmitted infections and the “short- and long-term consequences of engaging in sexual activity” (i.e. unplanned pregnancy). Frameworks, [8.1.SH]. Students will also be expected to “analyze external influences (e.g., …family…) that impact “the safety of adolescents in a varied [sic] of situations…” Frameworks, [8.5.PS]. Does that suggest that family influence is undesirable when a young girl is facing an unplanned pregnancy? Abortions on girls under age 15 are documented annually in Massachusetts.

In Grades 9 through 12, students are expected to “[d]emonstrate the ability to apply effective decision-making process regarding sexual activity and sexual health.” Frameworks, [12.2.SH]. Once again, this reinforces the view that there is no need for a parent or guardian to know about or consent to treatment of serious health issue like a contemplated abortion; a teenager can manage that on her own.

Under current law, parents and guardian can opt their child OUT of this curriculum by sending a written request to the school principal. A child cannot be punished because he or she is not participating in these classes. Concerned parents and guardians must take action to protect their children from exposure to subject matters that are not appropriate for young minds and will send the wrong message about the value of and need for parental/guardian guidance and involvement in serious health matters.

As can be seen from this brief review, there is a pressing need for parents and teens to be educated about the facts of prenatal human development and the truth about life-saving resources such as Massachusetts pregnancy resource centers. If pro-life organizations like MCFL and individual pro-lifers don’t do it, who will?

To that end, we need your help distributing our fantastic new publication, “The Facts About Fetal Development.” Tell your pastors and religious education teachers they can have free copies for their classes. All they have to do is send us a request, and we’ll do the rest! - Request copies here.

Also, please spread the word about our online resources for girls and women facing an unplanned pregnancy and in need of support. The can just click here to find a pregnancy resource center close to where they live.

Together we can overcome any obstacle to the protection of LIFE.

Thank you for all your support.

Patricia Stewart, Executive Director of MCFL

Massachusetts Citizens for Life



Pregnancy Care Alliance