By Jenifer West
The School Board meeting Monday night got off to a solid start when the student body presidents of Patterson High and Creekside Middle School each provided a rundown of activities at their schools in turn.
PHS Student Body President Jacinda Hernandiz spoke first, followed by Creekside Middle School student body president Samantha Rodriguez, accompanied by Alexia Rosas, ASB Activities. All three young women projected exceptional poise and self-confidence as they addressed the group, prompting applause after their remarks.
While state law has required that middle school and high school students receive age-appropriate information on topics such as sexually-transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy for quite some time, new legislation also requires schools to cover subjects such as body image, gender, sexual orientation and other topics.
The new curriculum, entitled “Check the Facts,” is taught to seventh graders at Walnut Grove and Creekside, ninth graders at PHS (in the fall and spring semesters), and all students at Del Puerto High (also fall and spring semesters).
The program consists of 10 days of instruction, and the district brings in the designer to teach it, at no cost. The curriculum meets state and national standards, and includes 10 topics, including the basics such as anatomy, conception and contraception, sexually-transmitted infections and making wise decisions / choosing to avoid risk.
Additional topics include identity and stereotypes, social media awareness and social media safety. Two days are devoted to “healthy relationships.”
Parents have the right to opt out of the “sex ed” portion of the curriculum covering sexually-transmitted infections, unintended pregnancy and other topics related to reproductive health, Executive Director of Student Services Tracy Manzoni said, but not the portions covering gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, discrimination, bullying and healthy relationships.
State law requires the district to notify parents 14 days before the curriculum is presented, and the notice advising parents of the upcoming program includes an opt out form. The district offers a Parent Information Night, to give parents an opportunity to see the curriculum, Manzoni said, which has led to only a few opt-outs over the past three years. Most parents are concerned about their children seeing pornographic images, she said. Once they learn that won’t be the case, “they typically don’t have any further concerns… and they actually recognize it as a very, very worthwhile curriculum.”
Assistant Superintendent Veronica Miranda also spoke about the presentations traditionally given to students in the fifth grade, during which boys and girls are separated, collectively referred to as the “Puberty Talk.” Due to “data… in the nurse’s office,” she said, fourth grade girls are being included beginning this year. Parents can preview the video online.
The district is proactively working to prepare for mandated changes to this type of curriculum, Miranda said, and will continue to keep parents informed.
Health curriculum framework
The health curriculum framework is a “guidance document,” Miranda said, which parents can view online. The district provided a forum, specifically geared to Spanish-speaking parents, as to topics covered, which include nutrition, physical activity, growth, development, sexual health, injury prevention, drugs, mental, emotional and social health, and personal and community health. The framework, provided by the California Department of Education, “does not mandate what must be taught,” she said.
However, “if the natural conversation in the classroom is about our LGTBQ community,” Miranda said, “then we have those conversations with the students, because they’re asking. Then it’s really about the training” the district provides to teachers “on how to have those (conversations).”
Dispelling myths, breaking stereotypes and linking students to resources can help prevent bullying, self-harm, feelings of hopelessness and serious consideration of suicide, according to the presentation.
SB 48 – FAIR Act
The Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful Education Act (FAIR Act) is a state law which requires that the contributions of Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, European Islanders, European Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and persons with disabilities be included in textbooks and social studies curricula in California public schools.
These topics will be taught to students in the fourth and fifth grades, and include sections on the contributions of LGTBQ people such as Charley Parkhurst, George Takei, Gay Rights Timeline, Billie Jean King and Harvey Milk.
A web search turned up some interesting information on Charley Parkhurst, who was known as one of the best during the Gold Rush at an extremely challenging and dangerous professions of the time: stagecoach driving. Parkhurst was born Charlotte Darkey Parkhurst, and assumed a male identity so successfully that even those who knew him well were shocked to discover, after his death, that Parkhurst was anatomically female. Parkhurst is said to have voted in the presidential election in 1868, some 52 years before the 19th amendment gave women the right to vote. Parkhurst drove stage routs from Stockton to Mariposa and San Jose to Oakland.