A bill proposed in the Ohio House of Representatives would require the state board of education and department of health to develop an instructional program regarding the “humanity of the unborn child.”
House Bill 90, which is being reviewed by House health committee, would require informational material that “clearly and consistently state that abortion kills a living human being” be developed and distributed by the department of health in order to achieve “an abortion-free society,” according to the bill.
If passed, the program would provide information about the anatomical and physiological characteristics of a fetus at different stages of development and information about accessing prenatal health care.
Local school districts would be able to choose whether or not to implement the program. Districts that would choose to implement it would be prohibited from referring a student to any medical facility for an abortion.
For the Athens City School District, an effort has been made to improve their sexual education curriculum beyond the state standard.
The ACSD nursing staff, along with an informal advisory committee made up of of local social workers, counselors and a local pediatric gynecologist have expanded the sexual education curriculum to include topics like consent, objectification in the media and contraceptives, said Molly Wales, an ACSD nurse.
Before joining the ACSD staff, students only received brief lessons on puberty, STIs and sexuality in fifth, eighth and ninth grade, Wales said. She realized over time that this alone was not enough.
Wales said she realized that there were gaps in the sex education curriculum after sitting in the clinic in Athens High School and talking to students about reproductive health.
“I knew we were not going to be able to just implement a completely comprehensive, ready made sex ed curriculum, because that just doesn't work for the realities of the Athens City School District,” Wales said. “So with the help of (the informal group) we sort of pieced together what we felt were the most important topics at what grade level.”
Since its approval by the ACSD board of education last September, the new curriculum has received almost no criticism, Wales said.
“I was sort of anticipating some pushback, given that this is a progressive curriculum. Not necessarily in content, (but) because I'm simply teaching science but it is progressive, it's different than like the state of Ohio … health standards,” Wales said.
Wales said she was expecting to hear criticism from parents or others in the school district who might not agree with the new curriculum, but has not received any.
At this time, ACSD Superintendent Tom Gibbs said that he isn’t sure what the district would do if the bill were passed.
“We’ve done a lot to improve what our sex ed curriculum is, so I certainly wouldn’t be in favor of just, if the bill passed, unilaterally asking the (school) board to adopt a program or make any changes until we went back to our professionals (and) our members of our community,” Gibbs said. He also said that the community would have to decide what, if any, of the program would be implemented in the district.
He feels that the topic of sexual education is important, and is a matter of life education, beyond just academics.
“I can tell you as both a superintendent, a professional educator and as a parent, I appreciate the fact that our educators and our local community support network has been so supportive in this work, and they understand that you can’t just go from barely teaching a topic, you can’t go from one extreme to the other overnight,” Gibbs said.