Minnesota parent reacts to Kansas school districts sex education curriculum, opting out & the latest on Embedded Health “Sexting” Lessons.
By: Anne Taylor
Last week a story broke about an angry dad after his middle school daughter brought home a picture of a poster listing sex acts to 12 and 13 year olds that included “grinding,” “anal sex,” “sexual fantasy,” “oral sex” and “touching each other’s genitals,” but also “dancing,” “talking” and “hugging.” The district later disclosed it was part of their sex education program. While some parents were okay with the explicit list and sex curriculum, others argued it didn’t belong in a classroom and were outraged that the specifics of the class was not disclosed to parents before signing off on sex education for their child.
Reality is we know access to technology has been an ongoing issue in homes across America with youth and it doesn't stop when our kids hit the school doors. They bring their phones with them in the name of ‘safety,’ and recent implementations of Common Core standards will tell you electronics are imperative to “21st century learning” so kids will come fully equipped with iPads and laptops to the tune of some 90 Billion dollars from the U.S. Department of Education.
Being the parent of a middle school child, I can’t even begin to tell you how often the kids are breaking the firewalls so they can game the system to play video games or do snap chat during language arts class (we no longer call it English). At a recent middle school PTA meeting in Minnetonka, Minnesota, parents - about 20 something moms in a district that serves thousands - were warned Instagram screen shots posted to FB are “in.” What’s a parent to do to keep up?
So imagine if you will what a relief it must be when parents shy away from the sex talk or simply don’t make time with their child to talk on these issues and schools say, “We can help!” While most parents I've talked to say they wish their mom or dad had been more open to discussions on the birds and the bees, I know a lot who have decided to take that on themselves. We can’t help but feel protective when someone ‘else’ is teaching our kids about sex (and everything in-between).
But what happens when we allow the government to decide for us what is best for our child and what benchmarks they need to meet when it comes to health and sex education?
“Is health a requirement for middle school graduation?” I asked the counselor. “No,” she responded, it is not a state requirement.” “Can I opt out my child from the sex education portion in health and teach the materials from home?” I asked again. “Yes.” she responded. Good, I thought, I see a study hall in my child’s future. And so began a journey where long story short, it was a month before that sex ed teacher would remove ‘missing assignments’ from my child’s electronic record even though my child was NOT to be penalized in any way for withdrawing or opting out. Needless to say, the following year my child was opted out of health class completely, including the sex ed portion.
This all took place in 2011-2012 and assumed the rest was behind us. Fast forward to fall of 2013 where “Embedded Health Lessons” begin.
An email from the school district explained that upon completing the EXPLORE Test, 8th graders would participate in the first of a series of embedded health lessons. The first lesson would cover social networking, specifically in the area of sexting. We were asked to check with our child and ask what they took away from the “sexting lesson” and what their perspective is on the issue.
For those new to school lingo, the EXPLORE Test is a pre-ACT exam for 8th graders taking up nearly a full day of class that follows up with a 72 questionnaire of inventory information on likes and dislikes so the computer can spit out what careers your child will be good at. All the while children are required to log into the schools computers to access the test using their personal school ID code (another well known feature of Common Core standards).
So here we are with embedded health. No one at the school, not even the teachers knew exactly when these ‘lessons’ would be taking place I was told. I was later informed through the principal and guidance counselor (and many, many emails going back and forth) that the High School teachers come in to teach the embedded health AND often do so during regular classroom time. Could that be one way they are trying to cover ‘health’ without a class, I wonder?
Make that ‘opt-out’ number three now for our family, because what I’m about to share with you will really knock your socks off while sending Dorothy back to Kansas!
Opting out or not, parents DO have the right to review curriculum materials. I asked for the materials and received a Power Point presentation from the principal. Clearly, that was their only curriculum for the sexting lesson (ahem, they could at least change the title of the lesson, yes?). There was a point in the presentation that gave statistics on sexing – in fact, the more I flipped through the slides it seemed to me they REALLY WERE TEACHING OUR CHILDREN HOW TO SEXT, even the photos of kids used in the presentation had high school looking features! Back the statistics…
Statistics were listed on the power point and at the bottom of the screen and in small print it read, “The National Campaign.” So I asked the principal who was this National Campaign or “Council” and where did the school get their sexting statistics from. Two days later I received a response and links to where the information came from as follows:
Some of you may be in support of the National Campaign and their efforts, but look closely at the next link and you will find a “Cosmo Girl” Survey on Sexting taken from 2008. Twenty pages of ‘sex & tech’ statistics right at your fingertips! Did the school take the time to disclose this to parents so that we may have a meaningful conversation with our child and information at hand? No. Did the school ever wonder what our perspective could be as parents? I don’t think so.
The information on sexting and the dangers prevalent in today’s society with youth having so much access to the internet is pretty relevant and an important one; however, for the majority of parents who may be too busy or too trusting of their district, we may overlook what is being taught by the school. Should we accept that a Cosmo Girl survey is the only survey out there on sexting?
I remember Cosmopolitan magazine back in the 80s, known for their insight on sex and still exists today, but now they have a ‘Cosmo Girl’ magazine? I’m all for liberating women, but this is too much. I have to sit back and ask what are we teaching our youth when schools refer to these types of resources? What are we allowing our government to teach to our youth when a parent or trusting adult is not available?
This is what happens when we allow the media’s culture to direct our very primal forces of nature – the culture of actually creating more sexuality and promiscuity than perhaps is really all there. Don’t believe me?
Take another look at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy’s website. Check out “the Too-Skinny Jean” ad on a failed attempt at sex. Those aren’t teens as the actors clearly appear to be in their 20s – while one couple could be in their 40s! Although the PSA’s create hilarious scenarios in the ads, it’s really geared more toward adult humor. And that’s the key in this: Sex is meant for Adults. So how do we keep our teens abstinent as all Superintendents and school principals will brag that all their schools teach it. Read closely again at the National Campaign’s site to see right on their front page the following:
“Sex & Tech: What’s Really Going on”
“Shock or Snore? CosmoGirl asks youth what they think.”
“Sex & Tech…Sex & Tech…(repeated in 4 headlines)Teens tell us what they feel about sex & tech.”
I’m hearing sex & tech! Sounds catchy, yes? Do you suppose that’s why teens could possibly be attracted to it? There is a link you can check out to view the new Common Core standards in National Sexuality Education Standards for K-12.
Upon viewing all 44 pages of the new standards, tell me who you want interpreting your child’s benchmarks for health and sex education, because their GPA is going to depend upon it.
Maybe Kansas did wake us up. After all, sex sells!