Sex ed curriculum proposal pitches abstinence

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, September 18, 2010

Staff Writer

Lessons on abstinence will continue to comprise much of the sex education curriculum at Beaufort County schools, according to a series of lesson plans presented to a committee of school leaders Thursday.
Three class sessions for seventh grade students and four class sessions for eighth and ninth grade students will focus on abstinence, according to a day-by-day list of proposed lesson plans given to a committee of the Beaufort County Board of Education tasked with curriculum and personnel issues.
After receiving copies of the proposed lesson plans, the committee postponed discussing them until the Tuesday meeting of the school board.
The class sessions will be taught by Beaufort County health and physical education teachers or county nurses, according to the information presented to the committee.
Once the school board approves the lesson plans, they will be available for public review in school libraries for at least 60 days prior to their use in the schools. Parents will be given detailed forms allowing them to withdraw their children from specific class sessions or all of the instruction, according to the information presented Thursday.
If approved, teacher training in the new curriculum could begin as early as Oct. 4 and the new lesson plans could be ready for use in the local public schools by Thanksgiving, school officials have said.
The lesson plans are based on materials developed by the N.C. Comprehensive Health Education Training Center at Appalachian State University. The ASU materials were the overwhelming favorite of a task force of educators, health care providers, parents and community members that was charged with recommending materials for Beaufort County Schools to comply with state mandated changes that will take effect this school year.
The Healthy Youth Act, approved by state lawmakers last year, requires the public schools to revamp sex education. It 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 child 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.
The information presented Thursday calls for the new materials to be taught in a series of nine sessions in seventh grade and 10 sessions in the eighth and ninth grades.
The seventh grade curriculum includes three class sessions on abstinence, including a lesson on the advantages of raising children in a loving and stable home. Other sessions cover building healthy relationships, digital safety, sexual assault factors and reporting, sexually-transmitted diseases, and the effectiveness of condoms in preventing disease, according to the information presented to the committee.
The eighth grade curriculum includes four class sessions on abstinence plus individual sessions on building healthy relationships- including components of a happy home life and successful marriage, digital safety, resources available for the prevention of sexual risk-taking, consequences of unintended pregnancy, sexually-transmitted diseases, and the effectiveness of condoms in preventing unintended pregnancy.
The ninth grade curriculum also includes four sessions on abstinence and single sessions on healthy dating relationships, power and control in relationships- including information on how these factors can lead to violence, misconceptions of sexual assault, reducing the risk of and reporting sexual assault, prevention of sexually-transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
The new lesson plans will not include demonstrations on the use of contraceptives, although photographs of various products will be shown to students. Information on their use will be presented separately to male and female students.
In other business, the committee heard but took no action on a policy on recruitment and selection of new personnel. Among other changes, it clarifies the types of references that will be accepted for potential employees covered by the policy. The policy will be presented to the school board for its first review Tuesday.
The committee also unanimously approved an application for a $175,000 drop-out prevention grant from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.