Battle Ground School Board approves sexual education curriculum

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Battle Ground Public Schools now has a full set of state-required sexual education curriculum in place, following a protracted process that involved restarts and multiple committees.

During its May 9 meeting, the BGPS Board of Directors voted 3-2 to approve the comprehensive sexual health education curriculum.

The curriculum will be taught in fifth through twelfth-grade classrooms. The approved curriculum will utilize two publishers. Fifth and sixth graders will utilize The Great Body Shop, while older students will learn from Goodheart-Wilcox, which is currently in use at district high schools for general health.

Background

The curriculum was recommended by an 18-member committee, which included district staff and community members that formed in December. That committee was the latest to form to address comprehensive sex ed in BGPS, which has been a yearslong process with twists and turns dating back to 2018.

In 2018, BGPS began the process of looking at a curriculum on the heels of new health teaching guidance at the state level, an explanatory narrative provided at the meeting stated. In 2018, and then again in 2019, the district proposed different compositions of sex ed, though both received enough opposition from the community to have the proposals either withdrawn or outright rejected by the school board.

In October 2019, the BGPS board voted to nix sex ed in the district altogether, which was later amended to allow for an elective course on the subject the following year. In 2020, the state Legislature passed a law requiring the subject to be taught in schools, which was affirmed by approval of a referendum that November.

Because of the new law, the district had to implement sex ed at the middle school level, leading to the formation of a committee in 2021. The proposed curriculum came to a final vote before the BGPS board decided to look at a publisher proposed by community members, though ultimately, the committee did not recommend the adoption of that curriculum.

Due to a lack of alignment in what was being proposed for middle school sex ed and what was already taught at the high school level, the latest committee convened in December to create a sex ed curriculum that aligned across the grade levels.

Testimony

During public testimony on May 9, individuals on both sides who had been vocal for and against the curriculum provided statements.



Eunice Ingermanson spoke in favor of adopting a more inclusive curriculum, but since the process neared a conclusion, Ingermanson said she “wholeheartedly supported its adoption” of what was proposed.

“If we can make what is in this proposed curriculum the culture and standard of our schools and our community, we will have built a better safety net for our youth than before,” Ingermanson said.

All who testified expressed appreciation of the thorough, albeit protracted, process the district went through to arrive at the conclusion the board did with its vote.

On the opposite side of the issue, Jennifer Heine-Withee said although the board’s hands were tied, she hoped in the future “maybe things politically will change so that the district has the freedom to do what’s best for our community.”

Heinee-Withee, who is the listed director of the Washington chapter of Parents Rights in Education, remarked that BGPS is the district she saw put the most work into its sex ed curriculum.

“I know you’ve put more effort into it than probably any other school district in Washington,” Heine-Withee said.

The only board member to speak during the second reading required for formal approval was board president Mark Watrin.

“It’s been obvious through this whole process that one of the key things is to make sure that we meet the state law and the state standards,” Watrin said. “There is a process for revising those laws. This is not that process.”

Watrin also noted the sex ed courses only take up part of the 180 days of required instruction.

“I’m thinking there’s a lot of common ground in those other 165 class periods,” Watrin said.

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