District: Sex-ed empowers, not promotes
Last updated 11/17/2022 at 6:10pm
Talking about sex-ed can provoke concerns.
As part of Edmonds School District’s commitment to providing parents and guardians an opportunity to preview its Reproductive Health and Disease Prevention curriculum, it offered a virtual meeting Nov. 9.
Each year, families are able to review the curriculum taught in grades 5-12. It has proved to be a popular topic.
Lisa Gonzalez, the district’s executive director of student learning, said the meeting was converted into a webinar to accommodate an unanticipated number of attendees.
Middle- and high-school educators and a school nurse described the programs and answered questions from parents and guardians, who could remain anonymous.
Each year, families are able to review the district reproductive health and disease prevention curriculum taught in grades 5-12.
Empowerment, not promotion
“No, no, no, no, no, no!”
That came from Mello Boswell, a PE/health teacher at Scriber Lake High School, in response to a parent’s question on whether lessons included descriptions or illustrations of sexual positions.
The program does not intend to promote sexual activity.
“This is about empowering, right? We talk about how knowledge is power, so let’s empower,” Boswell said. The purpose is to give students the information they need when they are ready for sexual engagement based on their familial, cultural, and religious views, she added.
“Research is very clear that students who are in comprehensive sex education programs actually delay having sexual activity. They’re more likely to have fewer partners. They’re more likely to use safe sex, birth control, and other things like that.”
Gonzalez said that teachers and experts received positive feedback on the curriculum and that most students are open to receiving information and are inclusive of all the voices and experiences represented in the classroom.
In 2020, Washington enacted sexual health education legislation to strengthen
the state’s health and physical education standards.
Gonzalez said that content must include affirmative consent, guidance on how to help as a bystander, and language and strategies that are inclusive of people in protected classes.
The bill also requires the lessons to be scientifically accurate and age-appropriate.
Lynnwood High School PE/health teacher Danielle Mello said the learning standards are “based on guidance from the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics, along with other sources that have expertise in healthy child development.”
The district’s educators introduce reproductive health in fifth grade and use King County’s Family Life and Sexual Health (FLASH) and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction’s HIV/AIDS Prevention Education (KNOW) curriculums.
Families can access elementary and special education Flash lessons free at https://flash.braincert.com/lms/courses. But to preview upper-grade materials, parents need to contact Patricia Schultz at [email protected] or 425-431-7147.
For grades K-4, the school board adopted the Second Step program to meet standards in social-emotional learning. To view sample lessons, visit secondstep.org.
Respect for family values
The presenters emphasized respect for diverse values through parent engagement and choices.
“We really want families to feel like their values are most important,” said Health and Fitness coordinator Jenni McCloughan.
Flash promotes family involvement throughout the program. Garcia said the components helped her and her daughter start conversations around sexual health at home with assignments such as interviews.
“We want to partner with you in this” and “if (parents) prefer to do the teaching at home, you can absolutely do it,” Hill said.
Families can opt their students out of some or all of the reproductive health lessons by requesting the opt-out/waiver form from Schultz or downloading it from the district site.
If a family opts their student out, Mello said, teachers are careful to provide students with alternative assignments in a private space to avoid social stigmatization.
For more information on instructional timing and pacing or questions specific to your child, reach out to their teacher or principal.