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Arizona schools chief not pushing age-inappropriate sex education

August 24, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Kathy Hoffman, the state superintendent of Arizona public schools, hates the Bible so much that she swore her oath on a Dr. Seuss book, she is pushing child sex education that would teach kindergartners about masturbation and sex positions, and she wants to put makeup on boys.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. It’s true that Hoffman was sworn in using a children’s book, but it wasn’t one by Dr. Seuss. As for the sex education claims, these are “categorically false,” according to Richie Taylor, communications director for the superintendent. In summer 2019, Hoffman supported proposed changes to the state board of education’s sex ed rules. These changes did not have to do with age-inappropriate lessons, and they were rejected by the board. Hoffman supports LGBTQ rights but has not advocated for boys to wear makeup, Taylor said.

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THE FACTS: Kathy Hoffman has been a target of online hate and misinformation in recent weeks ever since endorsing the Democratic ticket for the presidency and criticizing President Donald Trump’s attempts to reopen schools.

Posts with false information about Hoffman have amassed millions of views on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They’ve also resulted in threatening messages sent to the superintendent’s office, according to Taylor.

Several posts claimed that the schools chief “hates the Bible so much” she used a Dr. Seuss book for her swearing-in ceremony.

That is false. The Associated Press reported in January 2019 that Hoffman took her oath with her hand on “Too Many Moose” by Lisa Bakos, a book she once used in her classroom to help students with speech impediments. There’s no evidence Hoffman’s feelings about the Bible played into the decision.

According to the U.S. Constitution, “no religious Test shall ever be required” for elected office in the United States. Therefore, putting a hand on the Bible during an oath of office is traditional, but not mandatory.

Facebook posts also suggested Hoffman “is pushing sex education on kindergartners that includes teaching them masturbation and sexual positions.”

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That is false. In 2019, Hoffman asked the state board of education to consider a proposal to change the language in some of its sex education rules, according to AP reporting.

The proposal included cutting language requiring boys and girls to be taught separately, adding a requirement for sex education to be medically accurate, and removing language that prohibits the “teaching of abnormal, deviate, or unusual sexual acts and practices.” It didn’t change an existing requirement that sex education be age-appropriate. 

That proposal was rejected by the board, and Hoffman has not advocated any further changes to the sex ed rules since then, according to Taylor.

Sex education curriculum in Arizona is also optional and set at the local district level. If a district offers sex ed instruction, parents must opt in for their children to participate.

A final claim in many false posts about Hoffman included that the schools chief wanted to “put makeup on boys to allow them to have a sexuality choice.”

Taylor said Hoffman supports LGBTQ rights, but this particular claim is false.

“She has not advocated for boys to wear makeup,” Taylor said. “Issues of sexual orientation or gender identity are personal and conversations around those issues should be between parents, students, and other trusted adults that know the individual situation of each student.”

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536