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Stephanie Lundquist-Arora
Stephanie Lundquist-Arora
May 16, 2023 - 4 minutes
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Norfolk’s public schools are a new cautionary tale

Public schools in Norfolk, Va. are moving forward with Planned Parenthood to incorporate controversial gender and sexuality lessons into the curriculum. While parents are concerned about plummeting reading and math tests, and most recently history scores, activist school board members have other priorities, including Planned Parenthood’s latest take on “social emotional learning.”

The Get Real Comprehensive Sex Education That Works curriculum in Norfolk Public Schools was funded by the Virginia Department of Health and the Health Resources and Services Administration. Last year, the lessons were part of an optional program after school. In an ongoing community review survey, the Norfolk school board relays that it is trying to implement the controversial lessons, framed as “social emotional learning,” into all of the district’s middle and high school classrooms.

According to its community review survey, with the new Get Real curriculum, public schools in Norfolk will introduce concepts not previously taught to its students, such as: masturbation, homosexuality, abortion, and demonstrating the proper use of a condom.

Creators of the curriculum content claim that it is “age-appropriate,” but many parents disagree. For example, Get Real explains masturbation to sixth graders in detail:

“Masturbation is defined as touching, rubbing, and/or fondling one’s own sex organs for pleasure and stimulation…It is a personal decision and a normal behavior for people of all ages. People may have different opinions about masturbation, often based on cultural or religious reasons. It’s important to know that it’s OK to choose to masturbate, and it’s OK to choose not to masturbate.” (p. 6-108-09).

While the lesson acknowledges that some people have religious problems with the act, it also assures eleven-year-olds that they can go ahead and masturbate anyway. In case these young children decide they need help getting started, the lesson offers resources from Planned Parenthood instructing how to masturbate and promoting its benefits. The accompanying video informs children that lube and toys are helpful with the endeavor.

Divisive content in K-12 public education, which violates Governor Glenn Youngkin’s Executive Order One, is a concern with the Get Real curriculum. All discussion of male and female biology and anatomy are listed under the labels “assigned male/female at birth.” Gender ideology and sexuality units are spread throughout the curriculum. The content creators boast of LGBTQ+ inclusivity and lesson edits based on the group’s recommendations. Get Real curriculum teachers are expected to lecture students on the importance of preferred pronoun usage. The lesson states:

“People share pronouns…in order to avoid making assumptions about gender identity. If someone tells you their pronouns, it is important to be respectful and not misgender them…If you make a mistake and use the wrong pronoun, the respectful thing to do is apologize and tell the person you will work hard not to make the mistake again.” (p. 129).

Mandating pronouns does not have universal agreement. While some school districts, such as Fairfax County, Va. mandate pronoun usage under the penalty of suspension beginning in fourth grade, many people argue that this policy constitutes compelled speech and violates the First Amendment. Regardless of which side of this debate one sits, it’s clear that pronoun usage is a divisive topic and one where parents, not public schools, should guide their children. 

As disturbing as its content is, it is even more abysmal that the framers of Get Real lessons peddle the material as “social emotional learning.” When content is described as “family life education” or “sex education,” parents at least have a general idea of the topic and can decide whether to opt-out their children from those lessons. Not so, when a class is labeled “social emotional learning.” In fact, in some school districts, like in Fairfax County, parents are not able to opt-out their children from “social emotional learning” lessons at all. 

The case of Planned Parenthood’s Get Real curriculum in public schools in Norfolk, Va. is a cautionary tale for the rest of us across the country. Activist organizations are working with activist school board members to push boundaries so that K-12 students are digesting the politicized messages they force into standard curricula. It needs to stop. 


Stephanie Lundquist-Arora is a mother in Fairfax County, Virginia, an author, and a member of the Independent Women’s Network.

Stephanie Lundquist-Arora
Stephanie Lundquist-Arora Springfield, VA.
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