Board OKs sex-education curriculum

Published 5:47 pm Thursday, September 23, 2010

Staff Writer

Students in Beaufort County’s public schools will receive lessons on abstinence, sexually transmitted diseases and contraception in classes that are separated by gender under a plan approved by the Beaufort County Board of Education.
On Tuesday, the board voted 6-3 to approve a new sex-education curriculum — after amending a plan to expand classes in which boys and girls will meet separately — that will be taught in the local schools.
The plan presented to the board originally called for classes in sex education to be presented in co-educational classes, with the exception of instruction on contraceptives. The part of the plan was changed after some board members said students may be willing to talk more freely about disease-related issues if separated by gender.
“You need to be able to relate to the child on that level,” board member Cindy Winstead said. “I think it would be more comfortable if you separate the girls from the boys.”
Some members disagreed, saying co-educational classes would allow for serious conversation between the two groups.
“This would open up a dialogue for them to talk with each other,” said Barbara Boyd-Williams.
Voting for the curriculum as amended were board Chairman Robert Belcher and members Teressa Banks, F. Mac Hodges, Mike Isbell, William S. Warren and Winstead. Voting against the curriculum were Eltha S. Booth, E.C. Peed and Williams.
Under the new lesson plans, abstinence will continue to comprise much of the sex education taught at Beaufort County schools.
It will be the focus of three class sessions for seventh-grade students and four class sessions for eighth- and ninth-grade students, according to the day-by-day list of lesson plans approved by the board.
The lesson plans will be available for public review in school libraries for at least 60 days prior to their use in the schools, Patrick Abele, executive director for learning services for Beaufort County Schools, told the board.
Parents will be given detailed forms allowing them to withdraw their children from specific class sessions or all of the instruction, he said.
School-curriculum coordinators will work with the principals of individual schools to develop appropriate alternative classes for those students whose parents don’t want their children exposed to the new sex-education curriculum, he said
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 schools by Thanksgiving, according to Abele.
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 take effect this school year
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 students and female students, according to the curriculum approved by the board.
In other business, the board:
• Heard but took no action on a policy on recruitment and selection of new personnel. It clarifies the types of references that will be accepted for potential employees covered by the policy. It also established procedures for interviewing potential employees.
• Unanimously approved a $468,945.57 reimbursement to Beaufort County of N.C. Education Lottery funds received by the school system as required under the terms of an interlocal agreement with the county.
• Unanimously approved a revised bid from Dynateck Inc. to coat the auditorium and storage building at Washington High School at a cost of $3,750 with a material that would more closely match the color of the new roof that is being installed on the main building and include a 12-year warranty. The price is $6,200 less than an earlier price quoted by the company that was rejected by a board committee.
• Unanimously approved a request for the school system to seek bids for a proposal to provide a wireless Internet system within 11 of the system’s 14 schools. The school system is seeking a grant from the Federal Communication Commission that would allow it to purchase the needed equipment at an 80 percent to 90 percent discount.
• Unanimously approved a proposal from PowerSecure to install generators at Washington High School and P.S. Jones Middle School. The generators will be used to supply emergency power at the schools and enable Beaufort County emergency-management personnel to provide shelters for more people in the event of a disaster. PowerSecure will install and maintain the generators at no cost to the school system. It will recoup its costs from savings seen by reducing charges levied to the City of Washington from peak electrical demand, according to the proposal. 
• Voted unanimously to approve a five-year lease by with Bath Recreation Department for use of the recreational fields at Bath Elementary School and installation of additional lights on the fields, capping the costs of the installation at $500.
• Unanimously approved submitting an application for a $175,000 drop-out prevention grant from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
• Unanimously approved a request for the Chocowinity Middle School Booster Club to replace the fence around the football field at the school.
• Unanimously approved the school system’s $69.3 million budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year.
• Unanimously approved field-trip requests from the Junior ROTC at Washington High School to travel to Concord and for students from Northside and Washington high schools to attend an agriculture-related conference in Indiana.
All board members attended the meeting.