A representative speaking for Lawrence's gay student community expressed full support Monday for the Lawrence school board's plan to update the district's sex education curriculum.
"Sex education is a huge priority for our organization," said Rachel Gadd-Nelson, of Lawrence Queer Youth Voice, a group that represents gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youths in Lawrence.
Gadd-Nelson, a Kansas University graduate and an adult organizer for the group, said one of the group's main activities in recent months has been conducting student-led sex education workshops, "because they're not getting access to it in schools."
Her comments came after the school board heard a presentation about steps it would need to take to incorporate new national guidelines into the district's current human sexuality curriculum.
Updating the Lawrence district's curriculum by incorporating the national standards is listed as one of the "action steps" the board approved last year as part of its goal of improving curriculum and instruction throughout the district.
The current curriculum is built around standards that the Kansas State Board of Education adopted in 2006.
The national standards would require additional material to be taught. Among other things, it would add more information about forms of birth control other than contraception, and specific material about sexual orientation.
The standards would also include more human sexuality content in the seventh- and eighth-grade health curriculum.
Board President Vanessa Sanburn said the state standards do not mandate an "abstinence-only" curriculum when teaching about birth control — the state guidelines leave that decision up to local districts — but many school officials mistakenly believe that they are abstinence-only standards.
"Over the last several years I've spoken with teachers, social welfare workers and nurses who want to provide more comprehensive information to students but are sometimes unclear about what information they can share without putting their jobs in jeopardy," Sanburn said.
"With these new standards, I expect our district will provide clear, consistent and straightforward guidance and professional development focused on delivering sexuality education at all grade levels that is planned, simple and short, and part of a comprehensive school health approach," she said.
Sanburn said the district will continue working on an updated curriculum document in hopes of having a final document ready for the board to vote on by June.
Ag classes now count as natural science credits
In other business, the board approved allowing students to earn natural science credit for certain agricultural classes.
Until now, courses in plant science and animal science have been part of the district's career and technical education program.
But the Kansas Board of Regents recently voted to allow those courses to count as natural science credits that could count toward the state's "qualified admissions standards," a set of requirements that qualifies students for automatic admission to any of the state's six Regents universities.