Delaware Community Pushes For Definitions of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBTQ) in Health Education Curriculum

The Indian River School District in Selbyville, Delaware found itself at the center of a health curriculum controversy in late 2014 and into early 2015, eventually resulting in a win for proponents of comprehensive sexuality education. The controversy heated up when community members spoke out in opposition to the views of local Board of Education member Shaun Fink, who believed that definitions of the words gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender should not be included in the district’s health education curriculum.

At the September 2015 Board of Education meeting, Fink argued that he was "objecting publicly to anything that discusses gender identity, homosexuality” in the district’s health education curriculum. Fink continued by saying, “schools have no role in teaching someone 'if you're gay you're normal.' That is not the school's role.”[1]

Fink is a pastor at Cornerstone Bible Church, a nondenominational church in Millsboro, and has described his religious affiliation as what led him to his beliefs about keeping the specific terminology out of Indian River School District schools, as well as other HIV-, STD- and pregnancy-prevention lessons.

At the October 2014 Board of Education meeting, Selbyville community residents turned out to counter Fink’s comments and speak in support of the proposed health education curriculum.

Cole Haden, a student from the school district spoke directly to Fink at the October board meeting, saying, "Mr. Fink, I would like to thank you for allowing me to have a chance to stand for LGBTQA equality and engage my peers in a conversation about fairness and tolerance, which you seemingly haven't contributed to. You have fueled a fire long waiting to erupt. However, I can't thank you too much, for as a LGBTQA student at Sussex Central High School, and the district that you heartly [sic] govern, you have done the school district and the community a great disservice by allowing your personal faith to interfere with your professional work."[2]

Rev. Michael Smith, a minister from the Unitarian Universalists of Southern Delaware, also spoke at the meeting. He said, "Removing language because it refers to sexuality once again casts too many back into the shadows of misunderstanding and prejudice and bigotry. It strips many of their inherent worth and dignity. It invites bullying."[3]

Due to an outpouring of support for more inclusive education from the community, the Board of Education made the decision to draft a new health education curriculum. There was a public forum held on January 22, 2015 at Millsboro Middle School in order to present the new high school health education curriculum, allowing the public to comment before it passed by a unanimous vote on January 26, 2015. Even Fink ultimately voted in favor of the updated curriculum, acknowledging that the information needed to be included in order to adhere to state standards, while making it clear that he would have preferred an abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum.

In an interview with a local news station, Cole Haden, the student who spoke at the Board of Education meeting stated that "It's important to provide a safe environment for all students, and to give everyone an equal opportunity to learn about themselves and safe-sex practices."[4] Teachers in the Indian River School District are now required to use accurate definitions of the terms gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender in order to keep instruction unbiased—yet questions about what to do for students whose parents have opted them out of health education instruction remain to be answered.

[1] Rachael Pacella, “Board member against LGBT Content in health course” Delmarva Now, September 26, 2014, accessed February 18, 2015,

[2] Rachael Pacella “Protesters fight pastor’s anti-gay view on school book” Delmarva Now, October 30, 2014 accessed February 18, 2015,

[3] Racheal Pacella, “Support mounts against Indian River health textbook censorship” Delaware Online, November 28, 2014 accessed February 18, 2015,

[4] Evan Koslof, “Committee Recommends the OK on LGBT Topics” WBOC16, January 16, 2015, accessed Febuary 18, 2015,

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