A new state law that’s meant to give parents more control over their children’s education has caused the Haines School Board to take a closer look at the high school sex education curriculum. This week, the board approved those materials. It was the second round of review, after the board decided at its last meeting that the materials provided were not sufficient.
Under House Bill 156, school boards around the state are now required to approve their sex ed instructor as well as the curriculum and materials used to teach it.
Earlier this month, the Haines School Board approved science teacher Mark Fontenot as the instructor. They also approved the textbook he uses to teach sex ed, but they said it could not be the only material. Here’s school board member Sara Chapell at the Nov. 1 meeting.
“The text that we were asked to review is not comprehensive in terms of all of the topics that I hope we are teaching in our classes and so I think we also need to approve those materials,” said Chapell.
She worried about the textbook not discussing topics like birth control and gender identity. Fontenot assured the board that those subjects are in the curriculum, but he teaches them from his own knowledge and therefore doesn’t have many materials to show for it.
The problem, argued the school board, is that under the new law they need to approve all of the materials he uses, and parents need to be able to review those materials. They can then decide to opt their child out of that portion of health class. If he’s teaching things that aren’t in those approved materials, it could be against the new law.
Fontenot agreed to compile a list of all of the resources he might use, to be inspected by the board. That list includes several websites and both male and female condoms. Here’s School Board President Anne Marie Palmieri at a special meeting held to approve the new materials.
“I had a chance to look at some of it and I was glad that it seems well rounded and fairly complete,” said Palmieri. “It’s all fairly reputable sources and I think it will be fine.”
Fontenot listed three websites. The first is sexedlibrary.org, a website that provides information, statistics, lesson plans, and resources for professional development. It’s a project of the nonprofit organization Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. It has lesson plans on both birth control and gender identity.
He also cited the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Sex Offender Public Website, but the sex offender portion of the website is not the section of the website he uses in his curriculum. It’s an educational section of the website which provides resources about sexual violence and abuse, dating violence and safe relationships.
The final website Fontenot provided deals with best practices for condom use, among other sex ed topics.
Superintendent Tony Habra said any parent who wants to review the new materials will have that opportunity.
“Any parent who makes a request to look at the materials is more than happy to get a book which has some of the stuff that you’ve approved and then we’ll give them those links,” said Habra. “And if they need a computer to sit and do it they can certainly use one here in the building.”
Assistant Principal Cheryl Stickler said the websites and materials provided do comply with the new law, and its requirements for how information about the sex ed course is disseminated to parents.
Without much discussion, the board voted to approve the materials.