Archive for Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Board of Education studying opt-in sex-ed policy

June 15, 2005


— Some conservative members of the State Board of Education said Tuesday that sex education was too graphic or inappropriate for some students, and urged educators to change how the subject was presented.

"I want to make sure that parents understand the type of sex that is being talked about," John Bacon, a Republican from Olathe, said.

Moderates on the board, however, cautioned the board not to infringe on the rights of local school districts to set their own methods of teaching about sex; methods that they said are usually reached after consultation with local parents.

"I would encourage us not to mandate," Janet Waugh, a Democrat from Kansas City, Kan., said.

The discussion came as the State Board of Education considered draft health standards, which include sex education.

The standards are advisory guidelines for schools, and there is no statewide test for health instruction.

But even though advisory in nature, conservatives sought changes to the draft document - the most notable being a change in the way students are offered sex education classes.

Currently, most school boards have an "opt-out" policy for sex education that allows parents to remove their children from the classes.

Bacon and other conservatives recommended an "opt-in" policy where parents who wanted their children to attend sex education would be required to approve allowing their children to be included in the class.

Board member Ken Willard, a conservative Republican from Hutchinson, said "opt-in" would increase parental involvement.

But Cynthia Akagi, an assistant professor of health education at Kansas University, who was chairwoman of the committee of health teachers and nurses that drew up the draft health standards, said the opt-in proposal was a bad idea.

She said it would result in children from homes with uninvolved or abusive parents not getting permission to attend sexual education.

"Those are the kids that need the sexual education the most," she said.

She urged board members to go back to their districts and ask their school nurses and teachers which method they preferred.

Board member Connie Morris, a conservative Republican from St. Francis, said she didn't want to go back and talk with health teachers. She said she knew her constituents and they would prefer the opt-in strategy.

"I feel like I have a good handle on their issues," she said.

But Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri said the opt-in proposal would put many Kansas teens at risk of not receiving lifesaving information.

The opt-in policy is a "backdoor bureaucratic hurdle intended to prevent sex education from being taught in public schools," an organization spokesman said.

Peter Brownlie, chief executive and president of the group, said some teens wouldn't be able to get their forms signed because their parents are too busy, aren't involved "or worse, are abusive."

"These are the teens who most critically need accurate information about preventing unintended pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections," Brownlie said.

Work continues

Akagi will now go back to her committee to see if they will incorporate the suggested changes made by board members. Another set of draft guidelines will probably be put together later this summer.

Even if language is put in the guidelines suggesting an opt-in approach, it would still be only advisory, conservatives said.

Bacon said he feared that some sex education classes may cover topics inappropriate for certain age groups.

He said a bed was used as a prop in one class, though he said he had no further details about that.

He said parents should know if the instruction is going to cover "vaginal, oral, anal or masturbation," or if they were going to talk about sex toys and condoms.

Akagi said she had never heard of a bed being used as a prop for a class.

She said she was confident that involved parents at the local level would make sure that sex education classes are appropriate.

"I think districts are handling it quite well," she said.

Morris said that when teacher notes go home to parents about prospective classes involving sexual education, the notice should be written in the "harshest light possible."

"I want them to know we're talking about masturbation," she said.


righthand 12 years, 10 months ago

Well, well, well... crafty language used by the "intelligent" ones. I am completely suspicious of PE teachers relating sensative sexual information to young, still -forming brains, regardless of any agenda they may have. How qualified are they to "teach" this stuff? Hmm, looks iffy to me. Sex is such a subjective area of concentration that it resides as quite a slippery slope for those who are charged with imparting the vast amount of information to young people. I mean, if the end amounts to simply telling kids about condoms, where to go if you get pregnant, and how to avoid STDs, then why spend 16 weeks a year on the subject? Talking to kids where I teach about these classes, they tell stories that amount to a lot of pop-culture sex talk - MTV stuff. I don't see how it can be avoided. It's sex. Everyone thinks they're an expert on sex. Unless you adhere to sound principles of abstinence and monogamy, then any other sexual behavior by kids is irresponsible based on the risk - period. The same loose philosophy applied to academic areas such as math and science would create utter chaos! It's the same basic welfare philosophy. They're gonna do it anyway, so lets give them a platform to stand on, right? So, we'll fund it, do the best we can and feel better about ourselves for at least telling them to use condoms. Then , when they act irresponsibly anyway, because no one ever instilled values and sense into their brains (that's the school's job), it's not our fault we warned them! However, if we can convince them that masterbation is not only safe but fun... then we'll really solidify their futures. These kids will never experiment with anything... never. Any parent who excuses themself from the most important and impacting subject of their child's life is a coward playing with dynamite, exponentially increasing the risk of your kid(s) making life-altering mistakes. If you think the schools are going to sufficiently supply your kids with what they need to know about sex for the rest of their life you are not only foolish and stupid, but INSANE!

lunacydetector 12 years, 10 months ago

...and i remember my public school teacher telling our class about her herpes. what a wonderful teacher...hee, hee....i mean what a freak show . happened right here in lawrence. i wonder what they talk about nowadays.

cwrist 12 years, 10 months ago

"type of sex"? Exactly what "type of sex" are they going to be teaching? The "type" that I was taught in elementary school was pretty much the standard male-female, this is how babbies are born "type of sex". Are school starting to go into the human-animal-freak-type stuff now or something? If not, then how has it changed to the point that it is now too graphic to educate kids about? Give me a friggin break.

TinMan1997 12 years, 10 months ago

Morris: "I want them to know we're talking about masturbation," she said.

If she wants to discuss the school board's agenda for the last couple of months, she's welcome to do that.

So one board member is freaking out about an urban legend (bed as a prop? That's a Monty Python movie) and trying to convince the others that something shifty is going on. When I was in KS high school, the "sex" part was 10 minutes on how sperm get to an egg and there was no discussion of birth control. The remainder of the time was watching videos of fetal development and playing "which part is that" with internal organs.

There is no need to switch to opt-in.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 10 months ago

Abstinence is the drug of choice for most parents until reality sets in then it's time to switch gears.

This talk about masturbation and bed props is bogus garbage. There is a lot of misinformation being offered in some of the above posts.

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