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Archive for Thursday, January 11, 2007

State Board of Education to review sex education program in February

January 11, 2007

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— A day after taking steps to revise its science standards, the Kansas State Board of Education agreed Wednesday to tackle sex education requirements installed by the board's previous conservative majority.

Board members agreed to put the sex education policy on the February agenda. There was no discussion of the issue, but moderates previously have said they want to reverse a decision the board made last summer when conservatives held a 6-4 majority.

In June, the board approved a policy stating that human sexuality classes should promote abstinence until marriage, while still giving students complete and medically accurate information about birth control and preventing sexually active transmitted diseases. It's not a mandate, so districts don't risk losing their accreditation by failing to adopt it.

But the policy does require schools to get written permission from parents for students to participate in sex education courses.

In most districts, students previously were automatically enrolled unless their parents objected in writing.

On Tuesday, the board moved quickly to dump its current science standards, which treat evolution as a flawed theory.

The board will vote in February on a rival set of evolution-friendly standards drafted by a committee of educators. The present standards incorporate language favored by backers of intelligent design and were adopted in 2005.

Also Wednesday, the board approved a contract with the National Association of State Boards of Education to assist in the search for a new commissioner.

The board hopes to find a replacement for Bob Corkins by early April.

Corkins, who resigned abruptly in November, was widely expected to be fired by the moderate majority, based on his lack of experience as an education administrator and his previous positions as a lobbyist against large increases in school funding.

Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis, the department's chief finance expert, is serving as interim commissioner.

Board chairman Bill Wagnon said competition for high-quality administrators had increased, prompting the need for a national search to replace Corkins.

"It is critical that the board engage in the services of an organization that has a clear understanding of the educational trends of the nation and the unique position of the state board in education reform," Wagnon said.

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