Clear Lake Elementary Physical Education/Health Teacher Mike Sudrovech made a June 13 presentation to Oxford’s Board of Education, along with Oxford High School Physical Education Teacher Dave Brown and Lakeville Principal Kristy Gibson-Marshall, on proposed changes to the district’s sexuality and reproductive curriculum.
According to Gibson-Marshall, the committee received feedback from more than 500 families throughout the district via 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.
“We tried to align (the curriculum) to the results of the survey to make sure that what we were finding in the curriculum that existed wasn’t beyond the needs, requests or wants of our stakeholders,” added Sudrovech.
According to Sudrovech, some sections, such as HIV/AIDS lessons are required by state law. These lessons at the younger levels focus on teaching students to avoid contact with others’ injuries in the presence of blood.
“When we introduce students to HIV/AIDS prevention (in fifth grade), we’re looking at it as an organism and the associated disease,” he added.
To keep parents as the primary educator, Sudrovech said parents will have the option to receive informational pamphlets, worksheets and links to educational videos from the district to provide “optional enrichment activities” to their child.
Trustee Heather Shafer, who attended committee meetings, expressed concern that some of the optional enrichment videos may be too graphic.
“I attended your parent meetings… some of the parent information (for the older grades) is extremely explicit, I felt, as a parent and a board member. I received a lot of concern(s) from the community about that. I realize it’s being sent as (extra) activities, but I worry that it’s still being branded as an Oxford Community-supported program. They are explicit… I was uncomfortable sitting in a room with people I didn’t know watching them and I’m an adult,” Shafer said.
Sudrovech and Gibson-Marshall stressed that it would be up to parents to decide whether or not they receive the optional resources and whether or not they share those resources with their children.
“We’re sending them the link to access the materials, if they so choose, (and they can decide whether) that’s something they find appropriate for their child… This is just us trying to provide our stakeholders with the information that they said they would like to have,” said Sudrovech.
They also said that parents can opt their children out of any reproductive lesson at any time, without any penalization to the student.
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.
Sudrovech, Brown, and Gibson-Marshall each serve on the writing team for the curriculum changes.
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 Sudrovech. 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.
According to Sudrovech, many survey respondents agreed they would like to see LGBTQ-plus definitions added to Oxford’s curriculum.
“Almost 70 percent (of respondents) said that (LGBTQ-plus definitions were) something they’d like to be covered by the end of 7th grade… (but) we decided we should really keep this at the middle and high school level,” he said.
Sudrovech noted during the presentation the genderbread lesson would only account for 5 percent of the total curriculum, amounting to a 30-minute lesson.
The board is expected to approve the curriculum changes at its June 27 meeting, according to Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Ken Weaver. The meeting will be held at the board of education office (10 N. Washington) at 6:30 p.m.
If approved, the changes would be implemented in the 2017-18 school year.