By Susan Bromley
– Sex education in the district will be the topic of discussion at a public hearing set for 4:30 p.m., May 15, at ITEC, 609 S. Ortonville Road.
A recommendation from the sex education advisory board will be presented at the hearing, based on the committee’s research, as well as results of a survey of district parents.
“Our objective was to come together and review what the community wanted and make a recommandation to the board of education regarding puberty education in the fourth and fifth grades, as well as a recommendation about our adoption of abstinence-based versus abstinence-only education,” said Kristy Spann, executive director of educational services. “I want to bring to the fore that the Michigan Health Standards include standards about puberty education, but because it involves reproductive organs, that is legislated a little differently than everything else.”
The district uses the Michigan Health Standards curriculum, but in January the school board approved formation of a 14-member sex education advisory council consisting of Spann, Athletic Director Chris Deines, a clergy member, public health nurse, three students, five parents, and two teachers to study whether the curriculum should remain abstinence-only or change to abstinence-based.
The district used a survey crafted by the state of Michigan to assist districts and queried parents beginning in February, asking at what grade level various health topics should be taught, if at all. Those topics include puberty and adolescence; reproductive anatomy; positive communication with family; positive friendships; healthy dating relationships; abstinence; skills to avoid risky behavior; legal consequences of underage sex; pregnancy and childbirth; parenting responsibilities; adoption and safe delivery; sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS; risk reduction; sexual orientation/identity; and harassment, sexual assault and rape.
Spann said 182 responses to the survey were returned, with multiple perspectives, which will be shared at the public hearing. The purpose of the hearing is to give parents another opportunity to ask questions and hear about what the sex education advisory council has determined through their research and discussions.
The board will not vote on Monday on the recommendation. A second public hearing is set for June, prior to the board’s regularly scheduled meeting, and a vote on the sex education recommendation will likely take place at that time.
Spann emphasized that in both models, abstinence is encouraged.
“The only difference between the two is that in abstinence-based, there is a conversation around contraceptives,” she said. “If you have kids who are making the choice to not abstain, do we want them to have factually correct information about other options? Both abstinence-only and abstinence-based promote healthy relationships with family, healthy relationships with friends, not succumbing to peer pressure, understanding your body, and understanding the risks.”