A committee is struggling with what Lawrence children should learn about sex.
Teaching abstinence should be the primary goal of a sex education policy for Lawrence schools, a health committee will recommend soon.
A 15-member committee made up of classroom teachers, parents, a counselor, a health department official and district administrators held its third weekly meeting Thursday and focused on the sex education portion of proposed health guidelines.
Lynda Allen, district health and science coordinator, said the goal was to recommend a policy that reflected the beliefs of the Lawrence community.
The committee was careful to stay away from moral judgments. Instead, the decision to make abstinence a top priority was based on the possible consequences for young people having sex -- unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS.
"If we base whatever we do in health -- is it healthy? -- that's the bottom line," said member Diane Ash, prevention specialist at Lawrence High School.
The Kansas State Board of Education removed the provision concerning sex education from its accreditation criteria on Tuesday. A Senate resolution during the 1995 legislative session said the state should focus on academic results and leave physical and emotional well-being up to families and local school boards.
The Lawrence school board will consider the guidelines no sooner than this fall, Allen said, after review by the Parent Monthly Forum at the high school and by teachers who will deliver the lessons.
The committee's recommended wording of the goal states that, as a result of the school health education program, a student "abstains from sexual activity." The committee removed the phrase "or is responsible about sexual practices" from a blueprint provided by the state.
The policy also includes a list of "indicators," or specific results the program should achieve. Issues such as birth control, monogamy and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases are addressed in the indicators.
To avoid conflict with the overall goal of abstention, the committee carefully phrased the indicators. For example, the indicator that originally read "Uses birth control to prevent unwanted pregnancy each time sexual intercourse occurs" became "Understands the use of birth control to prevent unwanted pregnancy."