At this past Wednesday's SHAC meeeting, I expected to hear a presentation on the new sex ed program that AISD is developing based the "3R’s" program from Advocates For Youth. Instead, Michele Rusnak announced that they are first going to form some kind of focus group of parents to get more input from the community. The meeting date is TBA but will happen sometime this month (May) and will be promoted through the campus PTAs. It was unclear whether specific parents will be invited or whether an open invitation will be provided to all.
But here’s the thing: I taught for the last 9 years at a school campus that had virtually no PTA. In spite of a great deal of hard work on the part of teachers and administrators to formulate a parent-led PTA, it ended up being the teachers, administrators and a parent support specialist who carried most of the weight. And even after nine years, we still did not have a fully functioning PTA. I wonder how many AISD campuses are like my former school in that regard,.
So, how will the district ensure that “All Are Welcome” to these focus groups? As I stated above, not all campuses have thriving parent-teacher organizations. But I can tell you this, PTA or not, there are at least a few parents who send meals during Teacher Appreciation week, attend Parent Teacher Conferences and take off from work to see their children's performances. So, if the SHAC really wants to hear from all parents and promote diversity, they are going to have to seek out these dedicated and involved parents and simply sign them up to come as representatives for their school community. The parents must be allowed to provide their opinions without censure. Then see what happens. And like one SHAC member mentioned, to have diversity, they need to “have translators”, probably for more than just Spanish. But with about a 1/3 of AISD students being Hispanic, it’s absolutely necessary that Spanish speakers be accommodated.
At this point, I see this effort to gain parental input as a step in a positive direction, provided they do the following.
The following is the information I shared with the SHAC during public comments:
1. A list of some of the core philosophies upon which CSE (Comprehensive Sex Ed) programs are based. (For middle and high school, AISD uses Big Decisions, a CSE program that is marketed as "abstinence plus." The "3R's" program intended to be used for K-5 is also a CSE program. (Click here for Big Decisions Curriculum Evaluation)
2. The Texas Code 28.004. The state guidelines for SHACs (click here complete document) state that te board of trustees of each school district shall establish a local school health advisory council to assist the district in ensuring that local community values are reflected in the district’s health education program. This includes [my comments in brackets]:
- appropriate grade levels and methods of instruction for human sexuality instruction,
[ “Who decides what’s appropriate?”]
- A majority of the members must be persons who are parents of students enrolled in the district and who are not employed by the district.
- Present abstinence from sexual activity as the preferred choice of behavior in relationship to all sexual activity for unmarried persons of school age.
[Most CSE programs only state this ONCE in order to meet state requirements, then spend the rest of the time talking about how to have sex]
These are just a few excerpts of state law when it comes to human sexuality education.
3, You’re Teaching My Child What? By Dr. Miriam Grossman – I gave each parent of copy of the front cover. If you really want to know where to begin learning what the big fuss is all about, start with this book.
Also (IMPORTANT): Call your child’s school and tell them you want to sign up to be on the new Human Sexuality Curriculum focus group to give them parental feedback, and take the Texas Code 28.0004 with you.