Mequon — The School District will begin teaching an updated human growth and development curriculum in the 2013-14 school year, based on recommendations from the Human Growth and Development Curriculum Advisory Committee.
The School Board on Monday voted to approve the committee's recommendations, following a presentation from Eric Dimmitt, director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, providing an overview of the curriculum and a summary of actions taken by the committee in response to board feedback provided in March.
In its 168-page report on the curriculum, which covers both required and recommended topics identified by the Department of Public Instruction, the committee took steps to make sure it was very clear on what is being taught and how it is being taught, Dimmitt said.
Avoiding sexual risk
Deborah Anderson, Steffen Middle School principal and committee co-chair, noted that one main aspect of the curriculum is an emphasis on sexual risk avoidance.
"That really is a behavior we're trying to cultivate in our kids, to have the knowledge, skills and disposition to make good choices in regard to a shift in behavior," Anderson said.
Dimmitt added that the focus is more on the behavior element, rather than abstinence itself, "although abstinence is still a key part of the curriculum throughout."
Dimmitt described the fourth through eighth grade curriculum, which includes one-to-two human growth and development lessons at each grade level, as abstinence only. The ninth grade curriculum, which includes nine class periods as part as the freshman health class, is considered abstinence-based, he said, meaning that students also receive information on contraceptives at that level.
Some of the updated materials being incorporated into the curriculum are new videos for grades four, six and seven, and new ninth-grade resource materials, to be provided by vendor Choosing the Best.
The resource materials for grades six and eight will remain the same, Dimmitt said, as will ninth-grade lessons on male and female reproduction and anatomy, pregnancy and sexual identity.
Parents were given the opportunity to view the recommended curriculum materials during two parent preview opportunities held in late April. The district offers an opt-out option for parents who do not want their children to receive human growth and development instruction.
Board member Cheryle Rebholz and committee member Kerry Lawlor expressed concerns about parents not having the opportunity to review the sexual identity video being proposed as part of the ninth grade curriculum. Dimmitt said parents would be given the opportunity to view that and could choose to opt their child out of that part of instruction.
Others noted the issue of reaching students beyond ninth grade.
"I would like to stress that added piece of getting contact with our kids for that risky behavior beyond their freshman year in high school," parent Jodi Holman said. "That risky behavior goes up so dramatically sophomore, junior, senior year… and the more times we can touch the kids with that message of avoiding risky behavior… we just have to find a way."
School Board member Mary Cyrier suggested that non-curriculum-driven options could be considered for reaching those students, such as offering resources or activities. Dimmitt noted in his report that providing instruction beyond ninth grade is a challenge for the district, but something it is continuing to look at.
As explained to the School Board by Dimmitt, the next steps toward implementing the updated human growth and development curriculum will include:
· Publishing the curriculum units
· Developing a parent website for human growth and development materials
· Purchasing the recommended materials
· Scheduling professional development
The Human Growth and Development Curriculum Advisory Committee's report to the board can be viewed by visiting mtsd.k12.wi.us/board/boereports.cfm and selecting the document posted under the board's May 20 regular meeting.