With a proposed partnership with Planned Parenthood in the rearview mirror, Saline Area Schools Superintendent Scot Graden hopes the community can have a productive conversation about sex education curriculum at a public forum next week.
“We plan to have a talk about what’s in the lessons, not who’s providing them. We want to have a conversation about what kinds of things people want to see in sex education and stay away from the political debate,” Graden said. “If someone has an opinion they want to share, or if they want to learn more, it’s important they attend the meeting.”
The district’s Sex Education Advisory Council is hosting a forum on Saline High School sex education curriculum at 6 p.m., May 30 in the media center at Liberty School. Originally, next week’s meeting was planned as a second public hearing on changes to the curriculum. The proposed changes included a class on contraception use taught by Planned Parenthood-trained students. Another change included a lesson LGBTQ issues.
After the May 16 public hearing and an online survey, Saline Area Schools has decided not to use Planned Parenthood’s in the curriculum. The district said issues surrounding Planned Parenthood were too divisive. Planned Parenthood offers reproductive health care, including abortions.
The May 16 hearing quickly became a referendum on Planned Parenthood. Most of the people who spoke criticized the organization and expressed concern the district would invite the organization into the school. While comments were one-sided, when people in favor of the plan spoke, they also received vigorous applause.
The results of the online survey showed a strong divide, Graden said.
“It was almost 50-50,” Graden said.
Google surveys can be manipulated, but Graden said the survey still provided good feedback.
“This wasn’t a vote. We weren’t going to change the curriculum based on 51 percent of the vote. We were looking for feedback, particularly in the comments section of the survey,” Graden said.
While the district hopes for a forum without politics, there’s still the issue of a class on LGBTQ issues. The lesson wasn’t a sex education class, but a lesson designed to teach students about the challenges facing LGBTQ individuals.
“We know that (LGBTQ individuals) are more likely to experience drug and alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, homelessness. All these things are very important to us. We want to address that in a very interactive way,” Planned Parenthood educator Rick Bicknell said at a forum May 16.
Graden said the district wants community feedback on a class
“That’s specifically one of the issues we want to have discussion about,” Graden said.
The proposed LGBTQ lesson would be added to the mental, emotional and social health unit of a health class.
Currently there aren’t lessons specific to LGBTQ issues in the district. Graden said the issues do come up in lessons about bullying. A transgender student from the school recently spoke during a forum on drug abuse.
LGBTQ issues also come up in AP literature, where students discuss books like The Handmaid’s Tale. Identity and sexual assault are also studied the Capstone’s college unit. Students also learn about these issues while reading independently in other classes.
Another issue is using peer-to-peer teaching in sex education classes. Planned Parenthood offered free curriculum and provided students 50 hours of training before they worked in a classroom.
Graden said Saline staff could potentially design curriculum and train students to help teach certain lessons.
The district’s Sex Education Advisory Council is seeking new members who will continue to work on the curriculum into the fall, Graden said.