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Kyrene Board OKs expanded sex ed

By Jonathan J. Cooper

Aug 26, 2006

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 concepts.

The controversy surrounds a provision to “define sexual intercourse as vaginal oral or anal” for sixth through eighth graders.

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 include:

  • A specific definition of abstinence. Superintendent David Schauer said the abstinence-only nature of the curriculum is strengthened with the new update.

  • 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 parent.

  • 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 abstinence-only requirement.

“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 a cover.

“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 elementary school.”

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 families.

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.




Photo by David Stone


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