By Maureen Vander Sanden

SLN staff

After Gov. Scott Walker signed his bill into law last spring that requires schools teach sex education by stressing abstinence as the only reliable way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, officials from Elkhorn Area School District got to work to update its Human Growth and Development curriculum. Having an STI/STD can be quite jarring for anyone at any age, that is why STD testing facilities and at-home tests are available to those who want to see if that is a possibility with them. Whilst it is important to talk about abstinence, some people also feel discussing STDs can help students understand how bad they can be.

“There’s a lot of new legislation that became effective in April 2012, which instigated the update of everything in the program,” said Cathy Pomaranski, the district’s director of instruction, before the School Board unanimously approved the changed curriculum Monday.

Previously, topics including contraception use were required for sex education. Today, the multifaceted curriculum is simply recommended.
In Elkhorn, students will learn about methods of contraception in grade 9, a topic discussed in health class, a required course for all freshmen.

Under the new law, if human growth and development instruction is offered, seven topics must be taught, “when age appropriate,” according to Pomaranski. Identifying age appropriateness is up to the district, she said.

The required topics include:

– Abstinence from sexual activity is the preferred choice of behavior for unmarried students

– Abstinence from sexual activity before marriage is the only reliable to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases

– Medically accurate information about human papilloma virus (HPV), human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)

– Pregnancy, prenatal development and childbirth

– Parental responsibility and the socio-economic benefits of marriage

– Criminal penalties for engaging in sexual activities involving a child, and

– Sex offender registration requirements, reporting and implications.

“Our approach to this is to provide students the information, and all other conversations take place between the students and parents,” Pomaranski said.

Fifteen of the district’s educators are involved in delivering instruction in sexual topics, she explained.

Each was provided with the requirements in order for them to update their documents to reflect the changes, she said.

Additionally, Matheson Memorial Library Director Lisa Selje was contacted in order to compile resources to make available to the community.

“Parents aren’t left to figure it out on their own. There are a lot of references at the library,” she said.

In addition to a stated philosophy, the revised document includes “role of parents” in the program as well as instruction.

As with previous years, students in grades 4 and 5 will begin to learn about human growth and development and health-related issues in separated gender groups.

In grades 6 through 12, curriculum is presented to mixed gender groups.

Subjects that include such curriculum include health & nutrition, science, POPS (Power of Positive Students), and school counseling at the middle school level.

In high school such topics are covers in health, child development and parenting, a multicultural unity in American literature, biology, anatomy & human physiology and advanced placement biology.

Modified curriculum will be made available to special education students and those in the English Language Learners program.

With the board’s approval, Pomaranski said the next step is to implement a distribution plan, then get the document translated into Spanish.

“We talked about posting the document to the district website, publishing a link to our student handbook, using school messenger…” she said.

Per standard protocol, the district’s nurse will continue sending parents of fourth and fifth graders a letter prior to any instruction of human growth and development.

Parents of all other students will be notified through newsletters and course syllabi.

Related materials will be made available to preview, Pomaranski reported.

Any parent wishing to review the complete human growth & development curriculum and all instructional materials, may request to do so by calling Pomaranski at (262) 723-3160.




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