The ongoing work for a new Battle Ground Public Schools comprehensive sexual health curriculum for middle school appears to have backpedaled on a detour to look at a curriculum proposed to limit the number of opt-out students.
A previously-selected set of lessons was recommended for the school board to adopt, which plans to make a decision before the end of the current school year.
During a work session ahead of the district’s board of directors meeting on Oct. 11, Allison Tuchardt and David Cresap, district co-directors of curriculum, instruction and assessment, told the board a committee tasked with looking at possible curricula still favored HealthSmart over the suggested Check the Facts option.
In July, the board unanimously voted to take a look at the Check the Facts curriculum, after parents brought it forth and the curriculum directors agreed it would likely have been a finalist for selection if it had been available during the initial process.
After 15 of the original 20 members of the committee tasked to choose a curriculum returned to look at Check the Facts, HealthSmart remained the highest-rated curriculum. The committee was tasked with finding a curriculum that fit the district’s goal of something “rigorous, inclusive, age-appropriate and medically and scientifically accurate.”
Their analysis was based on review tools from the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and tools developed within the district.
Based on nine rubric elements, Check the Facts ranked the lowest compared to the four finalists during the initial analysis.
The curriculum directors presented an overview of what the committee discussed during three meetings in August. Some comments stated HealthSmart was an “inclusive curriculum that is more liberal,” which would address community needs, while comments against it said it was too liberal and didn’t reflect the district’s community. Committee members also differed on the use of terminology.
Proponents of HealthSmart said it is an interactive curriculum that does not lecture or read heavily, while other committee members raised concerns about the conversational aspect of the lessons, which they said would make it hard for parents to understand what actually will be taught in the classroom.
Check the Facts proponents said it would reduce the number of opt-outs, and include more information on what to expect post-abortion, while addressing human trafficking in-depth. Some committee members raised concerns over misinformation and the lack of engagement for that curriculum, though both those for and against it disagreed on whether the curriculum included good conversations on pregnancy prevention.
The committee felt both curricula encouraged parental involvement and could be easily adapted to hybrid learning environments.
Tuchardt noted the committee had fewer concerns about the scientific and medical accuracy for HealthSmart, though there were concerns about the potential of more students opting out of the lessons. Concerns about missing content on social media, human trafficking and grooming, as well as some of the vocabulary used, were also raised.
For Check the Facts, the committee said a trauma-sensitive lens and an appeal to parts of the community with concerns about implementation of sexual health curriculum were benefits, though biased language, an “unengaging” format and the unfinished nature of the curriculum were identified as negative aspects of it.
“Just based on the rubric, it seems like Check the Facts really isn’t even in the same order of magnitude as the other curriculums,” board member Troy McCoy said.
Board member Mary Snitily said she was looking at instructional strategy, and said Check the Facts had the advantage.
For marginalized students, she said, “there are certain scaffolding strategies to use with those students to give them the comfort level that they need to have these kind of conversations, especially with subjects that are sensitive and hard to talk about. ... The way that Check the Facts was built, it was obvious to me that somebody knew what those strategies were.”
McCoy took issue with Snitily’s observation, pointing to Check the Facts’ score on instructional strategies on the rubric, which was the lowest.
“Scaffolding strategies are great if you are dealing with material that meets the requirements of the state,” McCoy said. “You can build a great ladder to nowhere.”
Tuchardt said the information would likely be brought back to the board for a vote by the spring, noting the district would have to approve a curriculum by the end of the school year. Regardless of what curriculum the board decides to choose, she said the high school curriculum was not coherent with any of the middle school options in front of the district, nor was it available for parental review as per state law.
She mentioned HealthSmart does have a high school curriculum but it has not been looked at by the district. She said any sexual education curriculum that’s selected would be available for parents to review 30 days before the lessons start.
Superintendent Denny Waters commented on the different process development sex ed curriculum has over other subjects in K-12 education.
“If a teacher was teaching a unit on mammals and they wanted to add an article on giraffes or something like that, they would have the discretion to do that,” Waters said. “In a curriculum like this which is sensitive and has to go through this review process by parents, they would not necessarily have that same discretion.”
Both Waters and Cresap noted the protracted nature of choosing the curriculum and the need to come to a conclusion before the state deadline.
“This is new to us. I think the complexity around comprehensive sexual health has been a difficult process,” Waters said.
“There’s a certain aspect when it keeps going on and on, that it becomes divisive, and we need to move forward,” Cresap said.
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