The Oxford school district’s sexuality and reproduction curriculum may be changed for the first time since 2008.
A committee consisting of local clergy, nurses, teachers, parents and students has been heading the research and revisions for the last year and a half.
“Our belief is we need to have parent-teacher relationships. We’re not looking to come in and challenge values, change cultural values, or change beliefs. We’re here to give information (to our students),” OHS Physical Education Teacher and committee member Dave Brown told the board at an April 25 meeting.
Sex education is currently taught at three points during a student’s time in Oxford Community Schools— in fifth grade, seventh grade and in high school.
At the fifth-grade level, aging class materials and videos will be updated to reflect current statistics and facts during lessons on puberty, according to Brown. There are no proposed content changes for this level.
In seventh grade, proposed changes include the addition of sections on gender identity, sexual orientation and gender stereotypes/equality.
At the high school level, new sections have been proposed which would include LGBTQ-plus definitions, along with a lesson on genderbread, an infographic that breaks down gender identity, gender expression, biological sex, and sexual orientation.
“It will be a very small portion (of the lesson),” said Lakeville Principal Kristy Gibson-Marshall, who is part of the committee. “I think kids are sometimes made fun of because we don’t understand what it is (LGBTQ students) are saying they are. We’re taking away that mystery so that maybe kids will be less likely to bully (LGBTQ students).”
A video on consent will also be incorporated into the high school curriculum.
“We want students to understand, really, ‘no is no’ and how people can and can’t consent,” Brown said.
Updated statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health organizations will also be incorporated into the sex ed curriculum at every level.
According to Gibson-Marshall, the committee received feedback from over 500 families throughout the district through a survey issued in February 2016.
Of those respondents, 87 percent agreed with the addition of LGBTQ-plus topics into Oxford’s sex ed curriculum.
Three public hearings were held throughout April to allow further feedback from members of the community.
Gibson-Marshall said the committee also used data provided by Oxford High School juniors through the Michigan Profile for Healthy Youth (MIPHY) surveys, which were issued last year.
The surveys are an online student health survey offered by the Michigan Departments of Education and Health and Human Services to support local and regional needs assessment.
In a later interview, Gibson-Marshall stressed that district parents are encouraged to make all major decisions when it comes to the education of their children.
“I think it’s important to note that we allow parents to opt their student out (of) any lesson or any unit… We think our parents are the primary sex educators for their children. They should be. We want them to be. If they choose to opt out of any lesson or any content, they have that right. We don’t penalize the student in any way for the opt-out,” added Gibson-Marshall.
According to Gibson-Marshall, the proposed changes will be submitted to the board of education for final approval by the end of the current school year.
If approved, the changes to the curriculum would be implemented in the 2017-18 school year.