WARREN TWP. — District policies revising the physical and health education curriculum to include sexual abuse and assault awareness, as well as consent to sexual activity, were adopted at the Monday, Feb. 7, school board meeting from kindergarten to 8th grade.
The policy revisions were approved at second reading in a 5-3 vote. Board Chairman David Brezee, Board Vice-Chair Laura Keller and Board Members Mark Bisci, Lisa DiMaggio and Patricia Zohn voted in favour. Council members Daniel Croson, Mehul Desai and Ryan Valentino voted against the policy.
Board member Todd Weinstein was absent from the February 7 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.
At the January 24 board meeting, some board members expressed concern about three of the program guidelines. They raised questions about how physical education and health standards would be implemented at Warren and whether the state-required curriculum is age-appropriate for young students.
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.
Regarding sexual abuse and assault awareness, school superintendent Matthew Mingle said he is confident the district is already meeting these requirements with programs such as the Child Abuse Prevention Program. children. This is a state-run program that the district offers to families in kindergarten and third grade.
Mingle noted that sexual abuse and assault awareness topics are a relevant concern in the Warren community.
“We refer children and families to the Division of Child Protection and Permanence, an emergency psychological and psychiatric support service, their counselors and other types of services for abuse and sexual assault,” he said. “None of us want to have to talk about it, I certainly don’t, but we think it’s important to make sure our children understand what it is, how to report it and where the places are. sure where to go.”
Changes in sex education, which members of the school community inquired about, are incorporated into state standards. These health and physical education standards were adopted in 2020 and are publicly available on the state Department of Education website.
“This is where you can find information about the end of each year; then what students are expected to know and understand about different kinds of aspects of human sexuality,” Mingle said. “These are the standards that we are required to write our program to meet.”
Mingle added that the district administration does not believe the state will further adjust health and physical education curriculum standards.
Current board policy allows any parent to remove their student from health education experiences they deem offensive.
“Every year we have a few families who choose to do this, whether it’s in elementary school for the introduction to the sexuality that happens there, or for the more formal sex education in middle school,” Mingle said. .
Curriculum Director William Kimmick will provide the Curriculum Committee with an overview of the health policy implementation process at its next meeting in three weeks.
These recommendations will come back to the board in August 2022 for final approval. Board members will have the opportunity to comment and react on curriculum revisions.
The revised health and physical education policy is available on the district website.