Board approves sex-ed changes

Published 6:42 am Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Staff Writer

The Beaufort County Board of Education on Monday gave the go-ahead, with one member dissenting, to using lesson plans developed by a health education think-tank at Appalachian State University to teach students about sex.
The board voted 8-1 to accept the recommendation of a task force of educators, health-care providers, parents and community members charged with recommending materials to comply with state-mandated changes in the sex-education curriculum that takes effect in the coming school year.
Board Vice Chairman F. Mac Hodges cast the sole dissenting vote, saying he did not have enough information about what instruction will be provided to those students whose parents do not want them to participate in the new lessons.
“I think the task force has done a good job,” he said in an interview after the meeting. “I just don’t want those children whose parents have opted out to get lost in the shuffle.”
BCS Superintendent Don Phipps told the board the lesson plans will give school leaders a “beginning point” to develop its new sex education curriculum.
“Our goal truly was to come out and be in front of this issue,” Phipps said. “We hope that, in the end, we will have a tool that meets the unique needs and characteristics of our community.”
Once a curriculum has been developed, it will be brought to the board for approval.
The law, known as the Healthy Youth Act of 2009, expands the requirements for age-appropriate sex education offered to students as part of health-education courses in the seventh, eighth and ninth grades. While still emphasizing abstinence, the law requires students to receive more information on sexually transmitted diseases, effectiveness and safety of FDA-approved contraceptive devices in preventing pregnancy and disease and awareness of sexual assault, sexual abuse and risk reduction. 
It also gives parents and guardians the right to “opt out” of instruction for their children in all or in specific topics discussed in sex-education classes, and it gives them the right to review all the materials and objectives that will be used in such classes for 60 days prior to their use in public schools.
Copies of the approved curriculum will be placed in the libraries of the schools where it is to be used so that parents will have the chance to review it prior to its use, board members were told.
Although the task force unanimously endorsed the lesson plans, one of its members said Monday night that she hopes the school system would place more emphasis on the importance of marriage and family life.
The ASU plans have “many good qualifications,” said Jessica Van Essendelft of Washington, “but it does need modification. In some areas it is not strong enough.”
During a public-comment period at the meeting, Van Essendelft also said that some of the material in the lesson plans is too explicit.
School board members last week were given own copies of the ASU materials to begin their own review.
In other business the board:
• Heard a report from Child Nutrition Director Gwyn Roberson McBride on the Beaufort County Schools Child Nutrition Program. The program, which had a deficit over $250,000 at one point in the 2008-2009 school year, was profitable at the close of the 2009-2010 school year, McBride reported.
She joined the BCS staff in March. The program’s goals include improving customer service and cleanliness in school cafeterias and operating the program more efficiently, she said. The schools will work to reduce the inventory in their cafeterias and the program has instituted a hiring freeze in an attempt to reduce costs, she said.
• Unanimously approved a change order to the contract for the installation of a new roof at Washington High School, eliminating the use of a chemical stripper to remove the existing coating on the roof. The change order results in $43,956 savings on the project
• Unanimously approved a $7,265 contract to be awarded to Centrifugal Consultants Inc. of Durham for repairs to one of the chillers, which provide air conditioning, at Washington High School.
• Unanimously approved a request to exempt Beaufort County Early College High School students beyond the second year at the school from the Beaufort County Schools dress code.
• Unanimously approved the revised calendar for Beaufort County Early College High School, adding one class day to the end of spring semester. The last day of school for BCECHS students will be May 23, 2011, as a result of the change.
• Unanimously approved a form to be signed by private-property owners to allow school buses to turn around on their properties.
• Unanimously approved three dates for paying school personnel, which will occur prior to the last day of the month as a result of the school’s 2010-2011 calendar — Dec. 20; April 22, 2011, and June 24, 2011.
• Unanimously approved a contact with Parables Educational Resources Center of Washington to provide one-on-one personal-care services, including transportation, for BCS students with disabilities as needed.
• Unanimously approved a field-trip request from Northside High School’s Air Force Junior ROTC to attend a drill competition in Asheboro.