Questions

about the proposed middle school health / sexual health curriculum adoption

Below are questions that have been asked about the proposed middle school health / sexual health curriculum adoption during the Community Review. This document includes questions from both online and in-person reviews of the proposed curriculum, as well as from the June 16 Community Presentation Webinar. Most questions are written verbatim as they were asked. In some cases, we modified wording slightly to help make the questions understandable to a general audience. The questions are organized by the categories of Adoption Process, Curriculum Content, Opt Out, Implementation and Cost.

For more information about the proposed curriculum and the adoption process, return to the Curriculum Adoption page.

Adoption Process

  • Committee members were solicited by emails to parents, an article in The Reflector, and posts on the District website. 
  • Over 115 applications were received. As part of the application questionnaire, applicants  were asked which groups of people they might represent (for example, faith based, LGBTQ, and/or medical). Applicants were also asked as part of the questionnaire to provide written responses indicating their reasons for participation on the committee. 
  • All responses were carefully read by the Directors of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment. With a goal of having a committee that represents a broad spectrum of voices, the Directors selected 20 members to participate.

How we determined 4 programs

At the last meeting it was asked how we determined the 4 programs to have publisher presentations and to be considered for recommendation for adoption. Here is a summary of the process we used to determine these 4 programs:

We posted a Request for Proposal (RFP) soliciting programs from any possible source of comprehensive sexual health curricula. The RFP was posted in The Columbian and The Daily Journal of Commerce on February 23 and again on March 2, 2021.

We compiled a list of possible programs and requested materials from publishers. The list came from programs identified or reviewed by OSPI, a general awareness of possible programs mentioned in curricular advertisements, curricular exhibits at professional conferences, and programs used by other school districts.

We received hard-copy materials and online resources to begin our review of the curricula.

We eliminated programs on the basis of three limiting or prohibitive factors:

  • Old copyright.
    • Pearson Human Sexuality – 2014
    • Draw the Line Respect the Line – 2003
  • Not comprehensive.
    • Making Proud Choices
    • Promoting Health Among Teens!
    • Draw the Line Respect the Line – 2003
  • Not compatible with our understanding of what would be a reasonable fit with our community.
    •  FLASH
    • Positive Prevention Plus
    • UnHushed

We used our selection tools extensively to guide our discussions and decisions. In a couple of cases, we made minimal use of our Selection Tools due to previous reviews (FLASH and Positive Prevention Plus). 

We decided to bring 4 programs for presentation. The number four was optimal for us because: 

  • It was small enough to have a feasible workload for our virtual committee this spring.
  • It was large enough to include a range of perspectives held by committee members and the interests of our community.
  • We felt we had four viable options that could move forward in our process and promote productive discussions in helping us make a decision.

We referred to our Core Belief Statement throughout the process to guide our thinking and decision making.  

We did not have an individual vote by committee members of the curriculum as a whole. Members scored the curricula using both the OSPI-provided selection tool that identifies criteria we were to consider and the district-developed comment tool. These scores were compiled and presented to the committee. 

The committee was then split into smaller breakout groups of 3 to 5 members. These groups considered the compiled scores and then discussed pros and cons of the curricula. The groups were then asked to choose which curriculum would be their first choice. Each group eventually had HealthSmart as its first choice. One group narrowed to a “top two”  (HealthSmart and G-W) after meeting 9 and then chose HealthSmart during meeting 10.

No members stated outright that they objected to the choice of HealthSmart to go to the next step in the adoption process. Members did discuss strengths and weaknesses, and some weaknesses of HealthSmart were voiced. 

Some voices on the committee shared concerns, in general, about Comprehensive Sexual Education instruction and said that groups they represented (typically faith-based groups) would likely hold beliefs contrary to some of the premises of CSE. Therefore, some parents might choose to opt their children out of some (or all) instruction on CSE. None of this general dissent translated to a specific dissent that HealthSmart should not be recommended to the School Board for adoption.

Committee members were not asked to write formal personal statements on the curriculum. All committee members had access to the “Comments” Selection Tool and were able to write – at their own discretion – what they thought of the curricula. All these comments were considered and made part of the selection process.

In 2019 we chose to get community input through the survey. In 2021 our approach was to use the information from the 2019 survey in a general way (for example, we knew from the 2019 survey what the sensitive issues and high opt-out topics would be) and get specific input from community members as part of the committee. 

Committee members were allowed to listen and watch presentations (by Zoom) by the publishers for each of the 4 curricula. They were also given online access to curriculum materials for each program. In addition, each committee member had the opportunity to come to the District Office to view hard copy materials of each program.

See question 6 for the tools, used by committee members, to review each program.

Committee members spent four meetings learning foundational principles before hearing presentations of the individual curricula.

Committee members received training on:

    • Core Belief Statement
    • Standards, laws, and policies related to sexual health education
    • Norms for committee meetings
    • Rubrics and decision tools
    • Bias screener

Currently, there are two Health/PE teachers at each middle school.

No. We had 4 middle school Health/PE teachers on the adoption committee. Because the committee was limited to 20 members we did not have room for all teachers to participate. 

We had a debrief meeting, in which all middle school Health/PE teachers were invited after HealthSmart was recommended by the committee. 

OSPI has recently completed a review of HealthSmart as well as other health curricula. The results have not yet been published, but we expect them to be released in the near future. 

Informal conversations with OSPI have indicated that HealthSmart will “meet the threshold on all scales.” 

In our application process, 8 of 20 committee members formally identified themselves as part of a faith-based community. Other people informally identified themselves as being part of a faith-based community through our committee work. 

There were 6 males and 14 females on the committee.

No. The adoption committee was selected for the purpose of recommending a middle school health / sexual health curriculum to the school board. 

Curriculum Content

  • HealthSmart Grade 5 has a 2017 copyright.
  • HealthSmart Middle School has a 2020 copyright date.

Schools and/or districts within the state of Washington currently implementing HealthSmart include:

  • Federal Way Public Schools
  • Ocosta School District
  • Winlock School District 232
  • Franklin Pierce Schools (implementing fall 2021)
  • Lummi Nation School

Each year, the Sexual Health Curriculum is made available for parents to review at least 30 days in advance of sexual health instruction. This may be adjusted in the future to be done in the month of September.

Parents of children enrolled in a class that covers sexual health are notified by email and by information on the District website as to when this instruction will take place and how they can opt their children out of this instruction if desired.  

The HealthSmart curriculum includes “Dear Family” letters explaining the content your child is learning in class. In addition, there are some “Time to Talk” activities included in the lessons that help family members engage in important health conversations. We will ask that our teachers communicate with parents prior to the lessons to provide an opportunity for parents to have a conversation with their child.

This will be guided by the state learning standards, which we are obligated to follow, and the content of the proposed curriculum. 

The grade levels at which this may be taught, if the curriculum is adopted, will be determined by the Scope and Sequence Committee later this summer and next fall. 

Some topics from the standards include: distinguishing between biological sex and gender identity, expressions of gender identity can vary from person to person and at different times of their lives, people’s attitudes and perspectives on issues of gender can be influenced by family, various groups,  the general media, and social media. 

All persons, regardless of gender identity, hold dignity and should be free from discrimination and harassment. Also, there is a spectrum of beliefs regarding gender identity, and that sexual health instruction will be inclusive of all students on this spectrum. In particular, tolerance of varied viewpoints (including those with traditional, possibly faith-based, values as well as those from or representing the LGBTQ community) will be foundational to all classroom discussions, scenarios, and role-plays.

Lesson 14 (HIV, STI & Pregnancy Prevention) provides information on barrier methods (external/internal condom), hormonal methods (including pills, patches, and shots) as well as other methods such as IUDs, implants, or birth control rings.

This curriculum offers no opinion as to whether having sex before or outside marriage is okay.  It does promote abstinence as the only 100% way to prevent unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

This program promotes abstinence – especially among teenage youth – as the most effective way to prevent unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. There is nothing explicitly in the curriculum that promotes youth to become sexually active. 

We acknowledge not everyone in our community will agree with this, especially those who believe that sex education in general, because it implicitly acknowledges some youth will be sexually active, promotes sexual activity. In this case, we recommend parents talk openly with their children about this and then make a decision in the best interest of the child, as to whether or not opting out of sexual health instruction would be beneficial for the student.

We know that many students are having conversations about sex. We believe students should have accurate, age-appropriate information to make healthy decisions when needed.

We recommend parents talk openly with their children and then make a decision in the best interest of the child, as to whether or not opting out of sexual health instruction would be beneficial for the student.

As a public school, we are neither to promote or hinder religious values. Therefore, it is our goal to remain as values neutral as possible. We are required to teach WA State laws such as consent, which implies a universal value that forcing someone to have sex is wrong.

Ultimately, we believe the primary instruction of values is the responsibility of the parent(s) or guardian(s). 

Parents have the opportunity to review the curriculum prior to its teaching and can choose to opt-out of any instruction that does not match their values.

HealthSmart is inclusive of all lawful relationship types. It does not specifically teach that any relationship is better than another but it does include scenarios with people of all orientations. Scenarios typically use gender-neutral names.

No information on sexual technique is given. 

HealthSmart promotes abstinence, especially among teenage youth. 

State law requires us to teach the principle of “affirmative consent” which states that each person must get explicit affirmation from their partner before engaging in sexual activity. HealthSmart has a lesson on this concept.

Yes. Lesson 10 in the HIV, STI & Pregnancy Prevention unit addresses “Resisting Sexual Pressure” and slide 10 Q specifically addresses respecting a refusal.

No standards require explicit instruction that includes abortion. There is nothing in either the student workbooks or the core teaching materials that teach about abortion. There is a supplemental lesson about “Pregnancy Options” in the Online Teacher Resources that mentions abortion.

HealthSmart acknowledges all sexual orientations and gender identities but does not promote any particular identity or orientation.

This should be determined by the parent. If so, we recommend the parent opting their child out of sexual health instruction until ready.

Parents have the opportunity to review the curriculum prior to its teaching and can choose to opt-out of any instruction that is not developmentally appropriate for their children.

Accurate answers to questions 22-26 would likely require presumptions on our part beyond what we are capable of making at this time. Certainly, we can’t claim that any individual students will change their behaviors/attitudes/etc. just because they receive instruction using the HealthSmart curriculum. Whether or not changes will occur to groups is more complex. No specific studies have been done with HealthSmart to determine particular effects from its use. It is, however, an “evidence-informed” program, meaning that it is based on researched best practices of health education. Among other things, this research indicates that when students get age-appropriate, medically and scientifically accurate information and practice skills to apply this information, there is a positive impact on public health. That is, on average, fewer unintended teenage pregnancies, lower rates of transmission of STIs, lower rates of bullying against LGBTQ youth, etc. We acknowledge not everyone agrees with this research. 

Accurate answers to questions 22-26 would likely require presumptions on our part beyond what we are capable of making at this time. Certainly, we can’t claim that any individual students will change their behaviors/attitudes/etc. just because they receive instruction using the HealthSmart curriculum. Whether or not changes will occur to groups is more complex. No specific studies have been done with HealthSmart to determine particular effects from its use. It is, however, an “evidence-informed” program, meaning that it is based on researched best practices of health education. Among other things, this research indicates that when students get age-appropriate, medically and scientifically accurate information and practice skills to apply this information, there is a positive impact on public health. That is, on average, fewer unintended teenage pregnancies, lower rates of transmission of STIs, lower rates of bullying against LGBTQ youth, etc. We acknowledge not everyone agrees with this research. 

Accurate answers to questions 22-26 would likely require presumptions on our part beyond what we are capable of making at this time. Certainly, we can’t claim that any individual students will change their behaviors/attitudes/etc. just because they receive instruction using the HealthSmart curriculum. Whether or not changes will occur to groups is more complex. No specific studies have been done with HealthSmart to determine particular effects from its use. It is, however, an “evidence-informed” program, meaning that it is based on researched best practices of health education. Among other things, this research indicates that when students get age-appropriate, medically and scientifically accurate information and practice skills to apply this information, there is a positive impact on public health. That is, on average, fewer unintended teenage pregnancies, lower rates of transmission of STIs, lower rates of bullying against LGBTQ youth, etc. We acknowledge not everyone agrees with this research. 

Accurate answers to questions 22-26 would likely require presumptions on our part beyond what we are capable of making at this time. Certainly, we can’t claim that any individual students will change their behaviors/attitudes/etc. just because they receive instruction using the HealthSmart curriculum. Whether or not changes will occur to groups is more complex. No specific studies have been done with HealthSmart to determine particular effects from its use. It is, however, an “evidence-informed” program, meaning that it is based on researched best practices of health education. Among other things, this research indicates that when students get age-appropriate, medically and scientifically accurate information and practice skills to apply this information, there is a positive impact on public health. That is, on average, fewer unintended teenage pregnancies, lower rates of transmission of STIs, lower rates of bullying against LGBTQ youth, etc. We acknowledge not everyone agrees with this research. 

Accurate answers to questions 22-26 would likely require presumptions on our part beyond what we are capable of making at this time. Certainly, we can’t claim that any individual students will change their behaviors/attitudes/etc. just because they receive instruction using the HealthSmart curriculum. Whether or not changes will occur to groups is more complex. No specific studies have been done with HealthSmart to determine particular effects from its use. It is, however, an “evidence-informed” program, meaning that it is based on researched best practices of health education. Among other things, this research indicates that when students get age-appropriate, medically and scientifically accurate information and practice skills to apply this information, there is a positive impact on public health. That is, on average, fewer unintended teenage pregnancies, lower rates of transmission of STIs, lower rates of bullying against LGBTQ youth, etc. We acknowledge not everyone agrees with this research. 

Yes. Kids will be taught how to effectively use condoms. When (in which grade) exactly this will occur is still to be determined by the Scope and Sequence Committee.

This refers to skills that can be used to promote an individual’s health. These include refusal skills, accessing health resources, communication involving affirmative consent, etc.

These skills can be applied to sexual health as well as general health topics such as nutrition and safety.

We acknowledge that the science involving issues of gender and gender health is still developing and not everyone agrees. We also recognize that some people identify as transgender, and, in public schools, current information should be available to them regarding their own health. That is, the health curriculum should be inclusive of all students, and all students are entitled to information to allow them to make the best decisions for their own health.

We recommend parents review the curriculum prior to its teaching and talk with their children about their beliefs and values.

Lesson 5 in the HIV, STI & Pregnancy Prevention unit covers reproduction facts including the pathway of sperm and fertilization. 

Information on chromosome pairings is not addressed in the middle school HealthSmart curriculum. 

  • HealthSmart refers to “A body with a penis” and “A body with a vagina” as a way to be inclusive of all students. Teachers are still able to use the terms “male” and “female” in their instruction with students but need to be considerate of all people and may interchange the terms. This matches our district’s nondiscrimination policy (3210), which speaks to an educational environment that is safe and free of discrimination for all students as well as the district providing equal treatment for all students regardless of their race, color, national origin/language, creed/religion, sex, sexual orientation – including gender identity/gender expression, transgender, disability or the use of a service animal. 

In sexual health curricula, the term “gender” is usually defined in terms of gender identity: how a person sees themselves “in relation of being man/boy, a woman/girl, a blend of both or neither” (HealthSmart Health Terms Glossary). The term “sex” is usually used to mean a person’s biological determination of male, female, or intersex.  

Ultrasound technology is available through medical professionals for a variety of reasons. Although the technology is constantly changing and improving (sex can also be identified through amniocentesis), it is not always accurate, especially in the first trimester of pregnancy. In most cases, it is not until a baby is born that a medical professional makes an assessment of a child’s gender and records it.

The HealthSmart  middle school curriculum was written by:

  • Susan K Telljohann, HSD, CHES
  • William M. Kane, PhD, CHES
  • Hilda Quiroz Graham
  • Susan Giarratano Russell, EdD, MSPH, CHES

The 5th grade HealthSmart curriculum was written by:

  • Susan K Telljohann, HSD, CHES
  • William M. Kane, PhD, CHES
  • Hilda Quiroz Graham
  • Suzanne M. Schrag

HealthSmart does not have any lessons explicitly devoted to internet safety. We do think internet safety is important related to sexual health, especially with the topics of sexting and pornography, and we will work with the Scope and Sequence Committee to include supplemental materials about these topics.

HealthSmart includes a “trauma-informed approach.” We will work with Healthsmart’s professional training personnel to make sure the issue of student trauma is addressed in teacher professional development.

Someone who is attracted – either emotionally, physically or both – to all genders.

There are many different risk factors for contracting AIDS. When you live in a community where many people have HIV infection, the chance of being exposed to HIV by having sex or sharing needles or other injection equipment with someone who has HIV is higher.

Opt Out

Parents will be notified at the beginning of the semester that their child will receive sexual health instruction during their middle health/P.E. class. As part of the communication, parents will receive information about how to review the curriculum materials and how to opt out of some or all of the lessons.

Opt-outs were one consideration of the committee when choosing a program. Of the top four programs we looked at, the committee felt this program would have fewer opt-outs than some others. HealthSmart was chosen on a combined criteria, not exclusive of opt-outs. There are no guarantees that the number of opt-outs will be reduced. During implementation, we will consider opt-outs in the scope and sequence work.

A student who is opted out of sexual health will receive alternate, health (but non-sexual health) instruction. This instruction will occur in a separate classroom. Students’ grades will not be penalized. The Scope and Sequence Committee will oversee the development of alternate assignments.

Yes, parents can opt their children out of all or some of the sexual health content.

Implementation

Yes. The Scope and Sequence Committee will consider the coherence of curriculum resources for middle school and high school sexual health.

At the beginning of each semester, an email will be sent to the parents of each student who is enrolled in a middle school Health/PE course that will be teaching sexual health. A link will be provided for parents to review the materials online. Parents will have access to the materials for 30 days. After that time, a parent will need to contact the District Office to review the materials.

Our Health/PE teachers will need instruction from the HealthSmart publishers at the beginning of the school year to learn how to access and use the materials. The Curriculum Department will participate in the training with the teachers and provide guidance with questions that arise. Teachers will have time throughout the course of the first year of implementation to collaboratively plan lessons. After the first year, any teachers new to teaching HealthSmart will receive training prior to teaching middle school sexual health lessons.

The Health/PE teachers will provide the lessons to students.

There should be enough time to teach the state-mandated sexual health in Health/PE classes and still meet the State physical activity requirements of these courses.

We will not be teaching sexual health in other courses.

Teachers will be provided with training prior to teaching the materials. We will ask our teachers to stick to the content covered in the curriculum and will give them a protocol for answering student questions.

In 5th grade, students will be separated into gender-specific classes. 

In 6th – 8th grades, based on OSPI’s “Guide to Sexual Health Education Implementation in Washington State” document, students will be taught in mixed-gender classes. 

We are not exactly sure what this question is asking but we will reply with two points:

    • Teachers will need to teach the course content of the board adopted curriculum.
    • Teachers should not add their opinions based on personal, cultural, or religious beliefs. 

As required by law, sexual health will be taught once in the 4th or 5th grades. Battle Ground Public Schools is choosing to teach it in 5th grade, which is when personal growth and development have been taught in our district.

As required by law, sexual health will be taught at least twice in grades 6-8. The Scope and Sequence Committee will determine when this content will be taught.

No. The Scope and Sequence Committee will determine which lessons are taught at each grade level and, in turn, how many days will be spent with sexual health instruction.

Cost

In considering the cost for this adoption, we found each of the four curricula to be similar in cost. Because we will be purchasing an online program, the exact cost of the number of student licenses needed is unknown. We estimate this program could, annually, cost approximately $26,000 based on current enrollment.

The cost of the curriculum includes more than sexual health content. The topics are:

  • HIV, STI & Pregnancy Prevention
  • Abstinence, Puberty and Personal Health
  • Tobacco, Alcohol & Other Drug Prevention
  • Emotional & Mental Health
    • Nutrition & Physical Activity
    • Violence & Injury Prevention

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