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Battle Ground School District invites parents to check out new high school sexual health curriculum

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This marks the district’s second attempt to update their high school sex-ed classes to comply with state law

BATTLE GROUND — Fourteen months after Battle Ground School District pressed the pause button following community backlash, the district’s Board of Directors is tentatively set to approve new sexual health curriculum for high school students in October.

Protestors upset over proposed new sexual health curriculum packed a Battle Ground School Board meeting in July of last year. Photo by Chris Brown
Protestors upset over proposed new sexual health curriculum packed a Battle Ground School Board meeting in July of last year. Photo by Chris Brown

In July of 2018, dozens of community members, including then-District 4 Councilor Eileen Quiring, spoke out against the adoption of new Family Life and Sexual Health (FLASH) materials set to be adopted in order to bring the district in compliance with state rules. The outcry was largely over the curriculum’s sexual orientation and gender identity packets, though the district later clarified that those elements were not part of what they were hoping to adopt.

Still, District Superintendent Mark Ross said at the time that trying to adopt new curriculum during the Summer may have been a mistake, not allowing enough feedback from the community. The board formed a committee to look at options and receive more public input.

“We surveyed over 2,000 of our parents and citizens about what they were looking at,” Ross said during a recent interview with ClarkCountyToday.com, “and I think we’ve come up with a curriculum that’s not one canned curriculum from any one source.”

Battle Ground Schools Superintendent Mark Ross listens to public testimony about proposed sexual health class updates during a July 2018 board meeting. Photo by Chris Brown
Battle Ground Schools Superintendent Mark Ross listens to public testimony about proposed sexual health class updates during a July 2018 board meeting. Photo by Chris Brown

The proposed three-week unit is taught as part of high school health classes, and would be a compilation of lessons from the Centers for Disease Control, FLASH, Positive Prevention Plus, and the district’s high school health textbook, Essential Health. Ross and board President Troy McCoy expressed optimism that the courses will bring them into compliance with the state’s Healthy Youth Act.

“During the past year that we have reviewed and evaluated possible curricula for high school sexual health, it has been our goal to be intentionally thorough,” said Allison Tuchardt, Battle Ground Public School’s co-director of curriculum, instruction and assessment in a statement released by the district. “We recognize that this is a sensitive topic, and we want our families to know that medical accuracy and their responses to the community input survey were the filters through which we looked at every lesson. Medical accuracy and the survey were our guiding principles.”

The district is offering parents and community members two chances to preview the proposed curriculum, but they will need to do so in person and RSVP ahead of time.

  • Tue., Sept. 10 at the Battle Ground High School media center from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
  • Thu., Sept. 19 at Prairie High School media center from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

Parents can also make an appointment to view the materials from Sept. 9 through Oct. 4 at the district office by calling (360) 885-5391.

Battle Ground School District pressed pause on adopting new sexual health curriculum after this packed board meeting in July of 2018. Photo by Chris Brown
Battle Ground School District pressed pause on adopting new sexual health curriculum after this packed board meeting in July of 2018. Photo by Chris Brown

Survey results

The district conducted an online survey for 10 days last November and received a total of 2,112 responses. Of those, 1,828 indicated they were the parent of a student in the Battle Ground School District.

Click to view full PDF.

The survey consisted of 32 questions, most of them multiple choice, and focused on what kinds of lessons the respondents believed high school students should be receiving as part of the three-week sexual health unit.

Respondents were asked to determine whether they felt a topic should be “covered in depth,” “covered modestly,” “covered briefly,” or “not covered at all.”

The only topics the majority said the district should avoid entirely centered on how sexuality and sexual expression can change throughout life, the role of culture and media in shaping perceptions of gender roles and stereotypes, and condom use demonstrations. 

Forty-eight percent of the 1,928 parents who answered a question about opting their children out of the new curriculum said they planned to do so, in full or in part. 

One non-multiple choice question asked parents and community members to articulate their most significant concern regarding the teaching of the Washington State Sexual Health Learning Standards to high school students. Those comments were largely divided, but leaned heavily toward concerns over a difference between the religious or moral values of a family, versus those held by teachers or the district, and perceptions of a pro-LGBTQ agenda in the public school system.

The district also asked if parents would be interested in receiving the curriculum at the same time as their students, in order to follow along at home and provide their own input. The majority said they were supportive of that idea.

“We understand that parents want to be involved in their children’s learning,” said Corina Shipp, a committee member and health and fitness teacher at Prairie High School. “The opportunity to partner with families and empower them to have conversations about these issues is powerful.” 

Next steps

Parents and community members who wish to provide further public comment may do so through the district’s website until Oct. 4. Following public input, the district’s Board of Directors could adopt the curriculum on Oct. 28.

No date has been set on when teaching of the new sexual health curriculum would begin. The district will provide parents with a 30-day notice, as well as information on how to opt their student out of any part of the course should they choose to do so.

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