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Austin ISD seeking parent input on new sex ed curriculum

Thursday, November 8, 2018 by Claire McInerny, KUT

The Austin Independent School District is seeking parental input as it prepares to rewrite its human sexuality curriculum.

The district hasn’t revised its elementary and middle school curriculum in 12 years. Parents received an online survey Wednesday inviting them to give input on which grade level various lessons will be taught. For example, parents will state what grade levels they think students should learn about healthy relationships.

The district is also hosting three parent engagement meetings to gather feedback in person.

AISD is focusing on rewriting the curriculum for grades three through eight. The district will base the new curriculum on the National Sexuality Education Standards. These are the standards parents will be looking at in the survey.

The standards fall into the following categories: anatomy and physiology; puberty and adolescent development; identity; pregnancy and reproduction; sexually transmitted diseases and HIV; healthy relationships; and personal safety.

Each category has different, grade-appropriate standards. For example, students in kindergarten through second grade are not taught about sexually transmitted diseases and HIV. In addition, lessons on healthy relationships, puberty and identity change as students get older.

AISD Director of Academics Kathy Ryan uses consent as an example of this. She says if students sit through lessons on consent in multiple grades, the lesson plans will look different each year.

“Consent doesn’t just mean consent to have sex,” Ryan says. “Consent means consent to call me at home on the phone. If you have an interest in me and you start calling me every day and I’m not OK with that, I need to be able to tell you, ‘Hey, do not call me every day, stop.’”

She says the district also wants to include discussions on learning to deal with rejection in a healthy way.

Other subjects that these national standards would introduce into AISD curriculum include social media and its effect on body image and bullying, and sexual assault and abuse.

Ryan says when schools prepare to teach any of these lessons, parents are informed weeks in advance and have the option to opt out of individual lessons or the entire curriculum. Students who opt out will complete other social emotional learning lessons.

The district is gathering parent input on the standards through Nov. 30. Then, it will write specific curriculum and lessons that will hopefully be approved by the board of trustees in January.

The district is hosting the following in-person meetings:

Nov. 8 – Travis Early College High School, 6-7:30 p.m.
Nov. 13 – Lanier Early College High School, 6-7:30 p.m.
Nov. 15 – Eastside Memorial High School, 6-7:30 p.m.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT. Photo by Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT.

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