This September, the Athens City School Board voted to officially implement a new sexual health education curriculum that will be an inclusive program for all students.

Molly Wales, an Athens City Schools nurse, was inspired to change the sexual education curriculum after observing inconsistencies from elementary level sexual education to the high school level of sexual education.

“It became abundantly clear to me that we weren’t doing enough in terms of sexual health education,” Wales said. “After my puberty lesson in fifth grade, (students) were not getting any sexual health education until eighth grade, when they were learning about (sexually transmitted infections), so there were big gaps.”

The changes to the curriculum include a more in-depth and inclusive look at sexuality. Topics such as gender identity, sexual identity, healthy relationships and consent are introduced to students in elementary school. These lessons continue in both middle and high school.

The previous curriculum was introduced to students in fifth grade, and they learned about puberty and its effects. The new curriculum will start a year earlier — in fourth grade — and body positivity is one of the main focuses.

Sean Parsons, Athens City School Board member, is looking forward to this change in sexual education curriculum.

“School districts should always be looking at curriculum as being flexible to what students need, and the way that we are interconnected in the 21st century is very different than what was happening 30 years ago,” Parsons said. “Part of the mission of education is to help them be successful and safe.”

During the two-year process of changing the curriculum, educators found that technology was a more prominent aspect to the everyday lives of most teenagers. The access to social media is a strong reason why educators wanted to change the program and keep up with the times, according to Parsons.

Kim Goldsberry, a member of the Athens City School Board, is happy with the changes that have been made to the outdated sexual education curriculum.

“It’s very forward thinking of our district. I appreciate the nursing staff and their extra effort to search about what is needed,” Goldsberry said.

Last spring, Goldsberry and Parsons observed a fifth-grade sexual education class for boys. Members of the school board were surprised to see inclusivity when it came to gender and sexual orientation. 

Goldsberry, Wales and Parsons have heard mostly positive feedback from parents and faculty so far. However, parents can opt out of this new curriculum if they desire.

Wales plans to send letters to students’ homes before the new curriculum is introduced, and parents will be able to say no to this new curriculum if they choose. If students do not partake in the new program, they will be provided with an alternate activity. 

“Our young people deserve to have better decision-making skills that are based on evidence. My goal here is not to impart values on any child — it is about risk reduction and healthy decision-making,” Wales said.

@AriannaGuerra99

ag598417@ohio.edu

Comments powered by Disqus