SAS To Review Sex Ed Ciriculum August 20

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Saline Area Schools is modifying its Sex Ed curriculum to make it more understandable and inclusive for students with learning disabilities. Susan Estep is expecting the next Saline Area Schools Sex Ed Advisory Board meeting on August 20 to be longer than usual due to the public comment sections. Estep represents the Board of Education on the board as an ex oficio member; an elected official sitting in on the board to facilitate communication and productivity with the other elected members. The meeting is the second policy meeting for this years curriculum, and is designed for parental input. The recommendations from the board will go before the full Board of Education for a final decision next September.

The controversy among some parents is in changes to the curriculum. Some parents are objecting to visual aids that are being introduced with the goal of helping students with learning disabilities grasp certain concepts. But because they are visual aids, some parents consider it a step too far.

“I think it’s the absolute worst decision that they can make, to proceed without any forms of modification. I’m a very strong advocate against this Sex Ed [policy]. It does not meet with state laws. We have people in our community who have been pushing some social ideals and change. I think as parents we have a right to say ‘wait a minute, these are our kids’,” Raelyn Davis, a mother of ten in the district, said. “I have great concern that this is being pushed by one or two individuals with agendas; and it’s not really what’s in the best interest for the kids.”

The Sex Ed Advisory Board meeting will start at 9 a.m. sharp in the Liberty School. Any parent who is interested in providing their opinion on this subject is always welcome to attend through the public comment section at the beginning or end of the meeting. Statements or questions are limited to three minutes per person, to give as many people as possible a chance to speak.

The meeting will be live streamed over the internet like all SAS meetings are. Estep said that the board has made a point of communicating to all parents, not just parents of children with special needs.

Parents can review the curriculum piece by piece and choose to opt in or opt out of what their child is taught; including choosing to opt their child out of the curriculum altogether. Davis says that the information on the curriculum is not informative enough. 

Estep said that the changes “are specifically for the Special Ed population. It’s not going to change the curriculum that we already have with the general education. It’s more specific to special education; allowing for more interactive tools.”

According to Estep, “interactive tools” can include visual aids, specialized lesson plans and videos.

“I understand that there needs to be some change in our current curriculum, because [it] is not up to date. But I don’t think it needs to go as far as this one wants to go,” Davis said.

Davis said that the crux of her concern came from her position as a “parents’ rights advocate.” Like a lot of parents at the August Board of Education meeting, she objects to the lack of a public input on this, and issues like masking requirements. She also objected to a lack of a vote with the Board of Education over certain policies and for not being communicative enough with parents.

Not all parents are against the changes though. Kelly Van Singel is for the changes because her two differently-abled children haven’t been able to access the curriculum yet. And statistics show that since people with disabilities are more likely to be victims of sexual violence, Van Singel said she was thrilled that the education curriculum will now be available for her offspring, if it passes the Board of Education this September.

“It’s really for their self advocacy skills and their safety,” Van Singel said.

The full 700 page policy can be read at the office of Liberty School by any member of the public. But this measure doesn’t satisfy one parents, including Jennifer, who spoke on the condition of this newspaper only publishing her first name, for fear of retaliation from the district.

“If you don’t know what you’re opting in or out of, you can’t know what you don’t know,” Jennifer said. “Not every parent can go to Liberty and read 700 pages.”

Board of Education President Jennifer Steben declined an interview request for this article. But she did tell the Sun Times News in a statement that: “The sex ed curriculum comes to the table September 14. The transgender policy is in legal and I have not seen it yet because it has not come to the table.”

Image Credit: Scot Graden.

Correction: A previous version of this article included a paragraph regarding Steben's identity. It can now be found in the recent trans policy article. 

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