The Sparta Township Public Schools will provide a draft curriculum of the new sexual education standards sent down by the state, Assistant Superintendent Tara Rossi announced at the July 21 Board of Education meeting.
“We do recognize the importance of being transparent and providing as much information as possible so that families can make informed decisions that will be provided first to the [Board of Education] by the first week in August and to the community the second week in August.”
The new standards for second graders says they need to define reproduction and discuss the range of ways people express their gender and how stereotypes may limit behavior. By the end of fifth grade, students would need to explain common human sexual development and the roles of hormones, such as romantic and sexual feelings, masturbation, mood swings and the onset of puberty. By eighth grade students are required to differentiate between gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.
Rossi said at that point families will have all the information to look through and decide.
Families will have two options: to participate in the family health lessons or to opt out.
If families choose not to participate, they will learn more about the last subject the teacher taught instead. Rossi said when the students return to the class, it will focus only on “keeping hands to yourself, inappropriate touches, which is what we always teach,” Rossi said.
Walter Knapp of Sparta said the district doesn’t need to follow the state’s standards.
“There’s no need to introduce that stuff you’re going to introduce to these children,” he said. “I can’t believe we’re at this point, that this is something that’s actually being discussed in the school system.”
Dana Gulino of Sparta said the district has the opportunity to set the curriculum.
Board of Education member Kurt Morris asked whether there has been any discussion of not teaching the controversial standards at all and said some “high performing” district have opted out but did not name those districts.
“That’s something we haven’t discussed,” Superintendent Matthew Beck. “If we discussed teachers opting out of something that they feel uncomfortable teaching, then where does that stop? So, when history teachers have to teach uncomfortable content, and now they want to opt out. It’s a professional responsibility to teach the board-approved curriculum and this discussion hasn’t come up yet.”
Rossi said Sparta schools have compared themselves to other “high-performing” districts to see how they are handling things and said she feels the district is developing something that is reasonable for all parties.
“Aside from what the state is mandating, there are many people who want their children to have exposure to the content that’s being developed and implemented inside of the curriculum,” Rossi said. “So, instead of it being all or nothing, at the end of the day, it became something that is your choice, and that parents and families shouldn’t have that taken away from them.”