CCSD superintendent sorry for secrecy around sex education changes

Plans to alter sex education in Clark County schools have been scrapped in the wake of protests by the community and several School Board members, who criticized the district for the secrecy in which curriculum changes were discussed.

“I am asking our community to forgive how we handled this situation,” wrote Clark County School District Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky in a letter to parents Friday.

Skorkowsky acknowledged that his approach has “broken trust” with families and School Board members. He also vowed to throw out the guidelines for a comprehensive sex education curriculum, presented at invitation-only community meetings as a starting point for changing the district’s abstinence-based system.

“I have instructed my staff to move forward with this discussion in a way that is respectful, open and collaborative,” said Skorkowsky, adding, “I believe we can restore trust” with community support.

As a start, the documents for a broader sex education curriculum — presented in the district’s closed-door meetings — will be made public at tonight’s School Boards meeting.

The process for changing sex education in Clark County schools also will be restarted, beginning with public community input meetings in each of the district’s seven areas, district spokeswoman Kirsten Searer said Wednesday. The schedule and other details will be provided during the School Board meeting at 4 p.m. today at 2832 E. Flamingo Road.

The controversy began in mid-September when the district held a series of community input meetings over a week, only allowing those with invitations to attend. Media also were barred. At the meetings, the district presented a 77-page curriculum guideline created by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States that, if instituted, would drastically change sex education in Clark County schools.

The changes under consideration would have made sex education in the nation’s fifth-largest school district a “comprehensive” sexuality model including education on lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual people, which breaks from the district’s long-used approach that relies heavily on the promotion of abstinence and only teaches about heterosexual relationships.

While the considered changes were praised by the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, Executive Director Tod Story told the Review-Journal the private meetings skirted the state open meeting law. If the secretive process continues, he said the ACLU would be forced to pursue legal action.

The ACLU official wasn’t the only one speaking out against the secretive meetings. So is Clark County School Board President Erin Cranor, who told the Review-Journal on Wednesday that she unsuccessfully fought all summer to make the input meetings public.

“If we’re looking for public comment, shouldn’t we invite the public?” Cranor said. “I was really upset they went ahead. We’re a public organization and need to do business in public.”

That’s why she refused to participate in those input meetings.

“It created a level of doubt, mistrust and suspicion,” said Cranor, noting that the purpose of today’s discussion will be to put everything on the table and “start over, doing things the right way.

“At this point, I’m absolutely ready to press the reset button.”

To start the reset, a survey will be circulated to all district parents in late October, seeking input on the sex education curriculum. Seven public input meetings will be held during November.

The district then will formulate proposed curriculum changes, presenting those to the public and the district’s Sex Education Advisory Committee. All the input will be gathered and presented Dec. 11 to the School Board, which will deliberate on the proposed changes.

In January, the School Board will discuss the changes again, with a goal of final recommendations coming in February.

“We can do all of this in the open,” Cranor said. “Nothing has to happen behind the scenes.”

Contact Trevon Milliard at tmilliard@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279. Find him on Twitter: @TrevonMilliard.