Talking about health versus sex

  • Monday, May 12, 2014

In response to the legislature’s recent move to tighten the training for teachers who instruct sexual education, Dorchester District Two held a workshop on May 7 to discuss sex ed curriculum.

Superintendent Joseph Pye said this “tightening” involves the state making sure teachers are properly trained in the medical part of sex education. Pye discussed that in DD2 sex education instructors are abiding by the law.

Present at the meeting was Health and Wellness Coordinator Deb Hargrove, who informed board members about the district’s sexual education curriculum, calling it an “abstinence-based district,” specifically targeting eighth graders.

However, the district also gives students facts for prevention against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Pye said the district sends out letters for parents, giving them the opportunity to opt out of the class if they feel it is inappropriate for their child.

Pye would like to elaborate more in these letters, explaining exactly what DD2 teaches to students.

“If parents are offended in any way, they are encouraged to opt out,” Pye said. “It’s understood that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

“I think we need to be more encouraging with them seeing it – letting them go and sit in on a class,” Pye added. “We’re not talking about sex, we’re talking about health.”

Pye went on to say that he feels in this generation sex is “glamorized” in such a way that it makes boys and girls feel that if they’re not involved, then they are not “with it.”

“I think there is a lot of misconceptions,” he said. “As educators we’re obligated to correct that.”

Also present at the meeting were two district physical education teachers who teach sex ed. Brooke Matthews is the instructor from Gregg Middle School and said she teaches sixth through eighth graders.

“We emphasize on abstinence,” she said. “Our students are very involved in the (classroom) activities … and are very mature about it.”

Chi-Chi Hurley, physical education teacher from Ashley Ridge High School, said her class talks more about sexually transmitted diseases and contraception. She said she has been teaching sexual education for 16 years.

“It’s more about teaching about the abstinence,” she said. “This is all about kids staying healthy.”

Both teachers said they abide by the law and know what they can and cannot discuss with students. Male and female students receive classroom instruction on the matter separately. The teachers do not give out condoms to students.

“Teachers are allowed to have one in the classroom but students are not allowed to touch it,” Matthews said.

DD2 Chairwoman Gail Hughes said she could understand parents being confused on the matter, and agreed the district should more elaborately explain what students are being taught in class.

Hughes alluded to being a mother herself and, at one point in time, being uncomfortable with her child taking sex ed in school.

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted someone else teaching my child this,” she said. “There were lots of questions in my mind, and my child did not take the class. Had I known what the program was about I would have felt differently.”

Pye said he welcomes anyone who has questions about classroom instruction in sex ed.

“We’re following the law,” he said, “but we’re doing it our way so that we put students’ education first.”

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