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Snohomish sex ed curriculum changes up for review

SNOHOMISH — Educators here may get a little help from late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel and some popular YouTube video producers when they teach sexual health next year.
A humorous Jimmy Kimmel segment on gender differences, and a video where tea is a metaphor for sex, are snippets of a revamped sex ed curriculum previewed at two community meetings last week.
The videos are just a sliver of a serious undertaking: keeping students healthy and safe from disease, unwanted pregnancy and sexual violence.
The Snohomish School District opted to update their lessons a second time after the process was halted last year because of parents’ concerns.
Some felt that a few lessons from a King County-based sex education program called FLASH, including certain references to gender identity, religion and compromise in relationships, were off base for local students.
In response, Superintendent Kent Kultgen promised to “Snohomish-ize” the curriculum. The district was also prompted to make materials more publicly accessible to preview.
This time around, all curriculum materials are posted online, easy to access, and available without restriction. They’ll be viewable until April 5.
The new lessons have been vetted by a new committee including parents, as well as a school district nurse.
Presenter Miriam Mickelson, the district’s executive director of teaching and learning services, said this update relied on its teaching staff to select from existing in-district lessons and alternate materials from the State’s Superintendent’s office.
At the first meeting March 12, Mickelson presented to a mostly empty house.
Only three parents came to assess the updated curriculum scheduled to be taught to the district’s approximately 2,400 seventh, eighth and ninth graders next year.
The curriculum engages middle and high schoolers through activities, discussions and some video presentations.
Topics include puberty, anatomy, healthy relationships, sexually transmitted infections, values and boundaries, reproduction, contraception, pregnancy and state law. The lessons vary depending on grade.
In some, students walk through realistic scenarios and learn a decisionmaking model to guide them when considering sexual activity.
The Jimmy Kimmel segment is an icebreaker; other videos do more serious work such as visualizing the conception and development of a fetus. One video emphasizes the harm that can come from sexting using cell phones, when a private sexual image sent to one person is exposed to a much larger than intended audience.
The curriculum adoption process is a lengthy one. The effort began in the fall of 2017. The latest curriculum was field tested in January.
Across the state, school districts that don’t offer sexual education may also need to adopt new materials soon. The Legislature is currently considering passing Bill 5395 which would mandate sexual health education as of Sept. 1, 2020.
One husband and wife at the March 12 preview said they would likely opt their child out of the sexual health lessons because their faith promoted abstinence until marriage. They also considered the material too awkward for co-ed lessons.
If the school board approves in May, students would receive instruction with the new materials beginning in September.
To view the lessons online, go to www.tinyurl.com/SSD
health through April 5.

 

  

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