Students in the Kyrene School District
will receive more comprehensive health
and sex education next year, including
specific definitions of the types of
sexual contact, the Governing Board
unanimously decided Tuesday night.
The district’s growth and development
curriculum will remain abstinence-based,
but will expand in scope. Students will
be exposed to more concepts at a younger
age and will get more detail about those
The controversy surrounds a provision to
“define sexual intercourse as vaginal
oral or anal” for sixth through eighth
Kyrene’s health curriculum director, Sue
Yost, said the new provision is
necessary because studies are showing
that students know the dangers of sexual
contact but are confused about what
constitutes sexual activity.
“Students are believing that they’re
preserving their virginity by not having
vaginal sex and they’re having other
kinds of sex,” Yost said. “But those are
very risky and dangerous behaviors and
they’re putting their lives at risk.”
Board member Rae Waters noted the reason
for including the specific terms oral,
anal and vaginal.
“If they don’t think it’s sex they’re
not going to abstain from it,” she said.
Several parents objected to the change,
saying sixth grade was far too young to
introduce such concepts to students.
The new curriculum significantly revamps
Kyrene’s health education for the first
time since 1993. Other key stipulations
A specific definition of abstinence.
Superintendent David Schauer said
the abstinence-only nature of the
curriculum is strengthened with the
An opt-in requirement. Pursuant to
state health education standards and
in accordance with current Kyrene
practice, no student will attend the
growth and development lessons
without prior written consent from a
Tips and tools for how to say “no”
and avoid health risk behaviors.
A discussion of the legal
ramifications of having sex with
minors. Sexual contact between
minors can be considered a sex crime
in some situations.
Parents and community members criticized
several of these provisions.
Pauline Lucas objected to the
“The school needs to not have a biased
view,” she told the board. “The benefits
of abstinence need to be explained…(but
I also think) that those students need
to be (taught) how to avoid unwanted
pregnancy. Just saying, ‘Don’t do it’
isn’t going to do it.”
Sudeep Mehta called the opt-in provision
“Opt-out is a cop out,” he said after
the board’s decision. “The problem is
the opt out really doesn’t work because
the kids get singled out. I almost feel
like I’m forced to let (my son) go. In
middle school nobody wants to get
singled out. This kid has just come from
He said kids whose parents opt-out will
still hear the information from their
friends after school and “the finger
points back to the parents.”
“Kids are very inquisitive,” he said.
“They’ll go online and Google it” when
they hear a new term.
Discussing their thoughts before the
vote, board members said the supported
the expanded curriculum partly because
of the opt-in requirement and the
information given about avoiding peer
pressure and saying “no.”
“(The health committee) put together
something that I really do believe the
children of Kyrene can benefit from,”
Board Member Sue Knudson said. “It is
about healthy relationships” and teaches
students to “avoid situations where they
may lose control.”
“There is much good in it (health
curriculum) that I believe is not
controversial at all,” said Board Member
Ross Robb. “My intuition tells me that
we’ve got to be proactive not reactive.”
State Senator Edward Ableser and State
Representative Meg Burton Cahill , both
Tempe Democrats attended the meeting,
saying they were inundated with calls
and emails about the issue.
“I see this as a wonderful idea to
introduce a more comprehensive
attitude,” Ableser said.
“If a parent chooses to opt out, that’s
their choice,” Cahill said. “But there
are many parents who need this
information (in the curriculum).”
Now that the board has adopted the new
curriculum, district staff and the
health committee will begin to select
the materials teachers will use to teach
the new curriculum.
The superintendent and board members
said they intend to make public review
and comment easy for parents, with
review sessions at times convenient to
The new curriculum should be in place
next school year.
Also at the meeting, the board discussed
the preparation of the school calendar
for the next two years. The district
will work with other area districts,
Tempe Union High School District and
Tempe Elementary School District, to
align their respective schedules as
closely as possible.
“I think it’s vital that the districts
align as closely as possible…so that
families that are in both districts have
some consistency,” Waters said.