Sex Ed Curriculum Proposed For Lansing Elementaries

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Whether parents loved or hated it when there was no sex ed class for the younger Lansing students, it looks like it's coming back.

Lansing's Sex Education Advisory Board held its first public parent meeting Monday night to discuss the new proposed curriculum for elementary and middle school students.

For the last three years, students in those grades haven't had sexual education classes because the teacher in charge of that department was reassigned. The high schools did receive a new sex ed program last year that's been a success, and now the Board wants to integrate a curriculum back into the elementary and middle school levels.

"One of the biggest concerns is just what is taught when. At what ages do we introduce children to what topics regarding sex education," said Bethany Simmons, a mother of four in Lansing schools.

She's a member of the Board, along with several other parents, clergy, nurses, and students. The curriculum they have planned addresses the issue of age appropriateness and many more.

"It's not just imparting the knowledge to the kids, but really helping them develop skills," said Patricia Bednarz, the Board's Co-Chair and a school nurse. "Looking at actually developing a plan for themselves, a plan that they can follow when they're dealing with some of these big decisions in their life."

Under the new plan, elementary students would learn abstinence and anatomy through a program called "Puberty: The Wonder Years."

"It focuses on helping young people respecting the changes in themselves and their peers that occur in puberty, and it also includes family homework assignments where the students take some discussion questions home and ask their parents to talk about the topic with them," said Regional Comprehensive Health Coordinator for Schools Wendy Sellers. "So, we are very committed to parent involvement in this curriculum."

As for eighth graders, they would learn from a curriculum called "Growing Up and Staying Healthy." It's a state model for HIV prevention focuses on communication and setting personal limits, while still being realistic.

"Teachers demonstrate how to use a condom, proper condom use method," Sellers said. "So, that at the point in time when people do become sexually active in the future they have had information from a reliable source about how condoms work and how they don't work."

Sellers said the middle school curriculum is especially important now that Lansing has seventh and eighth graders in the building with high schoolers. She said some staff has raised concerns over this, and they will be consider if and when the new curriculum is in place.

But if none of this sounds like the birds and the bees that you want your child to learn, there are many options for opting out. Parents will be given a form to fill out if they choose to opt their son or daughter out completely or selectively.

"If they look at the curriculum and they think, well, I like five lessons out of this year's curriculum, but I'm not really comfortable with this one lesson, then they can just opt their student or child out one lesson, too," Bednarz said.

There is another meeting for parents next Monday, Sept. 24 at 5:30 p.m. at the Summer Place Town Homes in the community center.

The final decision is up to the school board. If the parent meetings go well, they could reach a decision as early as next week.

If the curriculum is approved soon, it could be in schools as soon as this spring.

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