FIRST ON FOX: The Connecticut State Department of Education pushed back on watchdog accusations it quietly changed its website to reflect the governor’s debate comments on gender identity instruction in sex education.
Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont said in Wednesday’s debate that teaching gender identity instruction during sex education in schools does not and should not happen.
"It doesn’t, and it shouldn’t," Lamont responded to the speed-round question on whether gender identity instruction should be included in sex education.
Lamont faced one problem with his answer, though: the state's education department actually did recommend gender identity instruction during sex education in its "Healthy and Balanced Living Curriculum Framework."
Education nonprofit Parents Defending Education accused the department of stealthily changing its website to reflect the governor’s comments in the wake of the debate.
The education watchdog noted that the changes came from May of this year but said "the link was broken just hours after the debate and that is driving some of the questions and doubt."
Eric Scoville, spokesperson for the Connecticut Department of Education, pushed back on the accusations, telling Fox News Digital the changes came from May 2022 and no other changes have been made since then.
Scoville also said the changes came after suggestions from the school districts in Connecticut and noted the state's education framework is not a curriculum and that localities choose their educational topics.
The Connecticut education department spokesperson told Fox News Digital that, in addition to not being a mandate, parents can contact local school districts to opt their student out of specific content areas.
Scoville said the state's Healthy and Balanced Living framework is meant to be flexible and scalable for local districts to adapt to the community's needs.
In the old version, the state's "Healthy and Balanced Living Curriculum Framework" defined "sexual intercourse" as may meaning "different things to different people, but could include behaviors such as vaginal sex, oral sex, or anal sex. (See also anal sex, oral sex, and vaginal sex)."
The state’s definition was changed in May 2022 to say that "sexual intercourse" is "Sexual contact between individuals involving penetration."
Connecticut’s curriculum framework for third- through fifth-graders initially required teachers to explain "common human sexual development and the role of hormones (e.g., romantic and sexual feelings, masturbation, mood swings, timing of pubertal onset)" as well as to describe "how people are similar and different (e.g., sexual identity, gender, gender identity, gender expression, etc.)."
Under the changes from May 2022, teachers are now only required to explain "common human sexual development and the role" and describe "how people are similar and different."
The framework for sixth- through eighth-graders changed, too, having previously required teachers to explain "sexual activity and their associated risks (i.e., vaginal, anal, oral)" as well as "the significance of the physical changes in puberty and the potential role of hormone blockers on young people who identify as transgender."
The new version says that students will learn about "sexual activity and their associated risks" and "the significance of the physical changes in puberty."
The state department includes gender identity instruction in its framework for sixth- through eighth-graders, even though Lamont said in the debate the state does not.
"Define and explain differences between cisgender, transgender, gender nonbinary, gender expansive, and gender identity," the updated framework instructs teachers of the age group.
"Differentiate between sexual orientation, sexual behavior, and sexual identity," the updated framework for ninth- through 12th-graders reads.
Lamont's campaign did not respond to Fox News Digital’s requests for comment.
The governor’s comments come the week before the contentious 2022 election reaches its zenith.
Lamont is the favorite to win re-election in a cycle favoring Republicans, but his comments raise questions on whether the governor is aware of what his education department is doing or whether he actually means what he says about gender identity instruction in sex education.
The Democratic governor’s answer could also be a smokescreen for other troubled blue candidates in the Constitution State who may be looking to gain some last-minute ground with moderates and conservatives.