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Archive for Thursday, December 12, 1996

MCLOUTH REVIEWS SEX ED COURSES

December 12, 1996

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— A special committee has nearly finished its recommendations on sexual education courses in McLouth.

A community group is offering a compromise on a sex-education spat in hopes that district patrons can kiss and make up.

At issue is seventh- and eighth-grade health curriculum, more specifically a series of sexual education lessons. The curriculum came under scrutiny in the fall of 1995, when some parents complained to the school board about sexual education lessons being taught to coed classes.

Those complaints led board members to split up the classes by gender in 1995, then form a community committee to study the curriculum and recommend a new solution.

Laurie Cleavinger, a McLouth High School teacher who chairs the community group, said this week that a truce was on the way.

"Right now, our recommendation is to have the seventh-grade classes split. In eighth-grade, most of the curriculum would be taught coed, except for a few of the more sensitive areas," she said.

The ticklish topics include male and female anatomy, use of contraceptives and pregnancy. Cleavinger said current plans call for health classes to resume as coed for ninth-graders.

Committee members hope the compromise, though weeks away from being delivered to board members for their approval, will lay to rest what became a touchy issue last year.

Among parents' complaints: Coed classes created embarrassing situations for students and promoted promiscuity. Other parents supported the arrangement and content.

Cleavinger said the compromise streamlined the curriculum, doing away with duplication of lessons. In the past, she said, some lessons were taught both in health and biology classes, leaving some parents believing the district was stressing the issue too much.

The committee also has taken steps to improve communication between faculty and parents. Although parents were notified about sexuality lessons by mail in the past, the committee would now like to hold meetings where parents could review all materials and lesson plans.

Cleavinger said the curriculum would be relatively unchanged. When learning about contraceptives, for instance, seventh-graders will continue to be given basic descriptions and definitions but no instruction on how the items are used.

Eighth-graders may be shown pictures or contraceptive items but will have no hands-on training.

The compromise allows eighth-graders to discuss such topics as relationships in coed classes.

"When they would talk about dating and so forth, the discussions seemed to be lacking because the males couldn't get the female perspective and the females couldn't get the male perspective," Cleavinger said.

At Monday's school board meeting, Supt. Robert Behrens applauded the community committee.

"I hope all of you -- and I'm sure you will -- will recognize these people for the work they've done," he said to board members.

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