School district adjusts plan on sexual health curriculum changes
SNOHOMISH — School district administrators will “Snohomish-ize” the sexual health curriculum for seventh to ninth graders after a plan to adopt unedited materials from King County prompted concerns from some parents.
At a March meeting, some attendees questioned how appropriate and necessary certain references to gender identity, religion, homosexuality and other topics were.
The district was considering adding materials that were already vetted by the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). Some parents complained that the materials, sourced from King County, were too liberal.
Parents also met with Superintendent Kent Kultgen to express concerns that the district needed to notify parents better about proposed changes.
In response to the feedback, the district has paused the process of adding supplemental lessons to its sexual health curriculum. It is now revising its policy and during the summer and fall plans to develop a curriculum suited to the specific needs of Snohomish students.
The whole process was perfect in way we want to interact with our community … it was exactly how it’s supposed to work,” Kultgen said
Parents will have new opportunities to comment on the curriculum update during the summer and fall.
Reviewing the proposed sexual health materials will be easier, too.
When the district considered adding some OSPI supplemental materials from King County to the curriculum, it recommended parents review the materials through hard copies stored at the district office.
With the new curriculum update, Kultgen said the district will make the materials readily available online.
It will also create a specific set of lessons so parents can see exactly what their children will be taught, rather than the previous plan to offer more lessons from which district personnel could pick.
Tailoring the sexual health topics to the local community does not mean cutting out controversial topics.
While parents will have input into the process, the materials will still be selected and developed by the experts, including district teachers.
“What we’re teaching isn’t just what we think is important, pulled out of a hat, it’s standards that we have to teach,” Kultgen said. What will change is “how we do it.”
Kultgen said he heard concerns about “King County and that progressive angle, (and) we are going to pull back on this and ‘Snohomish-ize’ this.”
One controversial topic was gender identity. Mickelson said the material was not considered an essential standard for seventh and eighth graders. As for ninth graders, teaching is “about helping our students be discerning, helping our students be respectful, helping our students be reflective, and to really take what they hear and filter that against their own values,” Mickelson said.
The district had originally considered implementing the supplemental sexual health materials as early as May. It had already completed a pilot process of them before the process was paused.
There is no fixed adoption date for a revised curriculum. Students might begin receiving the updated lessons by January 2019 if the process progresses smoothly.
“The only time you get in trouble is when you try to put some sort of deadline on something like this,” Kultgen said.
Mickelson added that the district would not rush the process for the sake of a deadline.
New materials for fifth and sixth grade classes were approved earlier this year and will be taught in the new school year. Fifth and sixth graders will cover the sexual health topics during four class periods.
The lessons will span two weeks’ worth of classes for secondary students.
Anyone interested in the process and giving feedback can stay up to date by visiting the district’s health education web page at www.sno.wednet.edu/healtheducation
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