Lawrence schools one step closer to breaking from abstinence-only sex ed program

LAWRENCE, Kan. - A discussion of the planned adoption of the National Sexuality Education Standards by the Lawrence public schools went off without a complaint or contrary word uttered Monday night, moving the district one step closer to implementing the new standards this fall.

Switching from the Kansas to the national standards would mean several changes for classroom instruction in sexual health issues, primarily at the high school level.

Notably, ninth grade health classes would add two days worth of instruction in contraception and STD and HIV prevention that would go beyond Kansas' abstinence-only instruction. 

High school students would also discuss sexual orientation in an "age and developmentally appropriate" manner, according to Sarah Oatsvall, the district's assistant director of curriculum and instruction, who led Monday's presentation on the standards.

Oatsvall said district health educators had discussed the standards in an April meeting, and agreed that their inclusion in the curriculum could go forward as planned, provided instructors get training this summer in some of the more sensitive topics that would be discussed.

Vanessa Sandburn, president of the Lawrence school board, spoke in favor of the new standards, and said they filled an important need for students.

Rachel Gadd-Nelson, a spokesperson for a student group called the Lawrence Queer Youth Voice, also spoke in favor of the new standards, and urged educators to receive more instruction on the topic themselves.

No one spoke against the standards.

"The nice thing is in our district we have an opt-out policy, so certainly we are not forcing any curriculum on anyone," Sanburn said. "If someone is concerned about this information being shared with their students, or their students being part of a discussion about sexuality education, then they can opt their student out and they don't have to participate."

If no major objections arise, the new standards will become part of the curriculum this fall.

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