District reviews human growth curriculum
Committee asserts safety, respect and risk avoidance
Mequon - Following a thorough discussion Monday, members of the Mequon-Thiensville School Board asked an appointed committee and district administrative staff to continue its examination of human growth and development curriculum.
In November, the School Board formed a 20-person committee that reviewed the curriculum. Committee members, who met six times for a total of 12 hours, included district staff, parents, students, medical professionals and other members of the community.
District officials have asserted several changes are necessary to the existing curriculum - in part so Mequon-Thiensville is in compliance with new requirements outlined in state statutes - for the 2013-14 school year.
While discussing the issue for nearly two hours Monday, committee members unveiled a proposed mission statement that underlined the importance of parents and guardians serving as the primary educator of the sensitive topic.
However, the committee's statement went on to confirm a desire to continuing teaching current, relevant topics pertaining to safety, respect, responsibility and sexual risk avoidance.
Eric Dimmitt, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, led the formed committee and assisted in Monday's presentation of the work that has been undertaken in recent months. While there was consensus in some areas, Dimmitt said there also were differing opinions.
The end result was a so-called majority report that was approved by most committee members. Two minority reports also were drafted.
About a hundred residents attended the board room inside Range Line School to hear the report Monday. While officials assert instruction will continue to be delivered through the lens of abstinence, other components - including contraception, forms of protection and other related topics - drew controversy and differing opinions.
The report approved by the majority of committee members stated the district should comply with all required and recommended topics outlined in state statutes in an age appropriate manner. Changes include updates on forms of contraception, based on new research, and a glossary of terms by grade level that is to be devised by school nurses, health educators and medical advisers.
Sally Ladke, who served on the committee and authored one of the minority reports, said greater emphasis should be placed on the risk avoidance goal. She pointed out it is a felony for youth age 16 and younger to be involved in sexual activity.
"Research indicated why early sexual activity is physically harmful, affects (students') academic success and social/emotional maturity and impacts the stability of their future families," Ladke said.
Committee members Kerry Lawlor, Heather Rumple and Kate Witzer also stated a desire to have greater emphasis on abstinence.
"We don't want to undermine the message of waiting until you get married," Lawlor said while speaking to the board Monday. "We're saying not to have sex, but then we give 10 or 12 different ways to do it."
While the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction does not require school districts offer human growth and development curriculum, those that do need to adhere to a list of seven requirements, including medically accurate information about such conditions and diseases as HPV, HIV and AIDS.
When asked what the ramifications were for not adhering to state statutes, Superintendent Demond Means said there could be consequences leveraged by the state DPI.
"It becomes a financial issue," Means said. "They can withhold funds."
After sorting through a series of possible motions, board members directed the committee and administrators to continue discussion in three areas.
The list includes the possibility of shifting curriculum at the high school level from grade 9 to 10, a more comprehensive analysis of what materials would be presented at each grade level and a detailed examination of what specifically is required under new state statutes.
An update and possible board action could take place in May.
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