Anyway, as we head into Tuesday's vote on the district's sex ed policy, (see p.65 of the linked pdf), I thought it might be good to clarify a few aspects of what's going on.
- The policy changes fix the two big issues with the previous revision: "skill-based instruction" and vague parent communication requirements. My biggest initial concern was the phrase "skills-based instruction", which sounded like (under a future interpretation) it might form a gateway to crazy programs like the coastal conference you may have heard about in the news. This phrase was removed, with the change that the instruction is in the risks and benefits of various methods of contraception and other disease prevention measures. We also have added a direct statement that there will be a clear parent notifiction policy, access to curriclum, and a student exemption process on the district website.
- The policy is not meant to specify every detail of HSD's curriculum, and passing it will not end the conversation. Remember that board policies just form a general outline, and district staff are selecting and implementing the exact curriculum that implements that outline on a continuing basis. Lori Porter from the Parent's Rights in Education group raised a lot of good questions about how the policy will be implemented-- will it be interpreted in a way that provides graphic, disturbing content for children who are not ready? (Again, see that conference link for examples at the extreme end of what some sex ed proponents feel is appropriate.) I believe our staff are aware of the concerns, and HSD has not been participating in that controversial conference or using its handouts. We will need to keep watching this, to ensure that we continue to use appropriate materials: take advantage of the district's offer to access your child's curriculum, and notify your principal, superintendent, and board if you do see anything that you believe does not agree with your or the community's values.
- Lots of people really love the "My Future, My Choice" program, including its use of teen mentors. My experience may have been colored by hypocritical "teen leaders" in a similar program in my high school days, who effectively conveyed the opposite of the official messages through their weekend behavior. Since my last post, I've learned that this program in Oregon has been around for a decade, and while many community members share my general concerns, every commenter who had specific experience with the program (as a student or parent) was very positive about it. So, while I still believe we need to think carefully about the concerns I raised in my last article, and need to keep our eyes open for possible abuses, I will not be taking any action right now to try to change the current program. Be sure to contact me if you or your child has had a negative experience, though.