The nation’s fifth-largest school district has made changes to its sex education policy for the coming school year.
At its meeting on the Las Vegas Academy of Arts campus Thursday evening, the Clark County School Board unanimously approved seven measures aimed at balancing the need to teach students how to stay safe and healthy, while limiting how much sexual information they’re exposed to in classrooms.
Strong opinions and conflicting concerns about the abstinence-based curriculum stalled updates as the board struggled to include different values.
The elected leaders also appointed seven people to the sex education advisory committee. A student, two medical professionals, a religious leader and three parents start the two-year terms effective July 1.
The 11-member committee includes two students who do not get to vote on recommendations to the board, although there was talk at the meeting of changing that.
Morgan Aikele, a Moapa Valley High School sophomore who was appointed to the committee Thursday, said she wouldn’t mind having a vote. But, either way, she’s happy to share her research and articulate perspective.
“Finally getting to use it for something that really matters is cool,” the 16-year-old said. “That’s what’s going to get me through all the meetings.”
Aikele, a junior this fall, said the district should provide students with objective facts and definitions. Based on accurate information, they should be allowed to decide what to think about it for themselves.
Aikele prefers that teachers limit sex ed lessons to talking about the anatomy. That way, controversial social issues aren’t included in school curriculum and can be handled at home, she said.
Among the changes for next year’s sex education in middle and high schools are updated lesson plans for how to get birth control and the effectiveness of different contraceptives. Students will be given facts about sexually transmitted infections from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The source was not included on the handouts.
The CDC asked that its name be removed if its website wasn’t listed, Trustee Patrice Tew said. The board chose not to provide the website because they can’t ensure information would remain appropriate.
Middle and high school students will also learn about setting personal limits, statutory rape and age of consent as part of classes aimed at curbing sexual violence during the coming school year.
Also newly revised are the district’s guide for developing K-12 sex education and the advisory committee’s procedures manual. The district’s fifth graders are given a short class in human growth and development and sex ed starts in eighth grade.
During public comments on Thursday, some told board members the changes were a step in the right direction but didn’t go far enough. Several criticized the curriculum for not being inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.
Others asked the board to keep information about sexual orientation and gender identity out of classrooms. They said such discussions should be left up to families, not schools.
“We’ll continue to update and improve, but this has to start somewhere,” board president Linda E. Young said.
The board plans to discuss the state’s “opt-in” policy, which requires students to get permission from parents before taking sex ed. The board does not have authority to change it but can provide an opinion to help sway Nevada lawmakers.
Contact Amy Nile at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3871. Find @AmyNileReports on Twitter.