Concerns over health education in Warren schools | Sentinel Echoes News

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WARREN TWP. – Revisions to school health and physical education policy have raised concerns among K-8 Board of Education grades, raising questions about whether the state-required curriculum is age-appropriate. young students.

The board ultimately passed the revised policy on first reading in a 5-4 vote at its meeting on Monday, January 24.

Board members Mark Bisci, Lisa DiMaggio, Patricia Zohn, board chair David Brezee and vice chair Laura Keller voted in favor of the policy. Board members Daniel Croson, Mehul Desai, Ryan Valentino and Todd Weinstein were opposed.

The policy would not be adopted until it was approved at second reading. It will be presented for second reading at the February 7 board meeting.

Six new clauses have been added to the existing comprehensive health and physical education policy, primarily relating to sexual assault awareness, consent to sexual activity, mental health education, and teaching about diversity and inclusion.

Some board members expressed concerns about three of the curriculum guidelines.

Sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention education requires age-appropriate PreK-12 instruction; teaching about diversity and inclusion would take place in a venue that is appropriate for the K-12 curriculum; and lessons about consent to physical contact and sexual activity require age-appropriate instruction in grades 6-12. The topic of consent would cover the legal meaning of consent for physical contact and sexual activity.

Acknowledging that the policies are state-mandated, Croson asked if the district had more information on how health and physical education standards would be implemented in Warren.

School superintendent Matthew Mingle said the district has yet to receive specific guidance from the state.

“The board doesn’t have a lot of options,” Mingle said. “These are new laws that the state has passed.”

About five years ago, the board decided to switch from using the New Jersey School Boards Association as policy to using Strauss Esmay Associates (SEA) of Toms River. According to Mingle, about 80 percent of New Jersey school districts use SEA as their political body.

The process of writing Warren’s program takes place over the summer. The board then reviews recommended changes to the curriculum that are necessary to comply with the policy.

“Typically, between when the laws change and when this counseling process happens, the state gives some guidance as to what it might look like,” Mingle explained. “We haven’t received anything on those specific topics yet.”

Croson asked if the council had time to review the state’s implementation guidelines, with the caveat that “we don’t have a lot of options since the state mandated it,” before let there be a vote.

“I feel uncomfortable voting on this given that there really isn’t any guidance from the state on how this should be implemented,” he continued.

Mingle said there have been past situations where the school year has started, the board needs to implement policy, but still hasn’t received guidance from the state.

“The language of politics is textual state law. So sooner or later it will be part of council policy, Mingle said. “But the real question is, what does that actually look like to Warren?”

Weinstein drew attention to “age-appropriate” terminology in health and physical education policy, asking whether the state or district determines what is age-appropriate.

“Usually we do it locally,” Mingle replied. “In most cases, the state gives general standards that you must meet, and then we decide how we will achieve it.”

Rachel Singleton of Deerwood Trail West pointed out that many topics related to sexual activity and sexual assault aren’t appropriate for students in kindergarten through grade 2, “even some things in eighth grade aren’t quite right. appropriate”.

“It’s concerning, especially when you see the removal of the word ‘parents’ from the documents, and parents/guardians being replaced with the word ‘family members’,” Singleton said. “For me, it’s the state that intervenes where it shouldn’t be. Parents are the first educators of children. »

Although Shefali Tejani of Aspen Court agreed that some of these topics are personal and private, she noted that the program would be age group appropriate. She explained that an eighth grader and a first grader would not learn the same subject in the same way.

“I recognize that some of these topics are private, but I can also tell you from experience, when I was little, a lot of these discussions weren’t held by parents at home,” Tejani said. “So these kids are left to learn on their own – learning online or from their friends – which is not always correct information.”

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