QSD expands sex education program
Quincy students are being offered more detailed information about sex, their bodies and sexually transmitted diseases, thanks to a state grant.
The $10,000 award is from the Washington State Personal Responsibility Education Program for Healthy Youth. It provides a sexual health education curriculum for fifth grade through high school as well as staff training.
“This information is critically important for our students,” Superintendent John Boyd said at a recent school board meeting.
Carole Carlton, director of student achievement for the district, wrote in a report to the board that the curriculum includes information on abstinence and contraception to prevent pregnancy and disease. It covers a range of healthy relationship issues, such as positive self-esteem, relationship dynamics, dating, romantic involvement, marriage and family interactions.
District officials based their grant request on data showing Quincy students’ sexual behavior exceeds the state average in terms of risk.
For example, 7 percent of Quincy eighth-graders answering a poll said they have had sex, compared with 3 percent statewide. Thirty percent of Quincy High School seniors reported not wearing a condom the last time they had sex, compared with 23 percent statewide. Eight percent of Quincy sophomores said they have had four or more sexual partners, compared with 5 percent statewide.
Also, preventative instruction for Quincy students in the eighth and 12th grades is “lower or significantly lower than what is provided to eighth and 12th grade students in Washington,” according to Carlton’s report.
“There’s a real need to improve our sexual health information,” she said at the board meeting. “This allows us to present a targeted, research-based curriculum.”
Ryan Som, a family health teacher at Quincy Junior High School, told board members that many of the lessons focus on “refusal skills and the facts to back it up.”
He added during an interview that seventh- and eighth-graders began getting some sex education information last school year. However, that only covered HIV awareness and was taught by a physical education instructor.
“Before, at the seventh and eighth grade level, we didn’t do anything,” Som said.
The new curriculum adds information on drugs, alcohol, nutrition and other healthy lifestyle topics. Som can choose from 17 lessons, including the male and female reproductive systems, feelings and relationships, the benefits of abstinence, and how to say no to sexual pressure.
Different schools will implement the program at different times. The junior high curriculum will begin this month. Carlton said everyone will have completed the lessons by the time school ends in the spring.
Parents will be notified of the new curriculum and will be invited to preview the materials. Carlton doesn’t expect many to prevent their children from participating.
“My understanding is we have had very few parents opt their children out in the past,” she said. “We are looking to ensure that all families have all the information they need to have good conversations.”
The curriculum is flexible enough to allow local adaptations. In Quincy, that means adding aspects of Hispanic culture to make the lessons as meaningful as possible.
“It’s exciting to know it’s not a canned system or program,” Carlton said. “We certainly are using research-based evidence, but we can tailor it to our community.”
The overall goal is to emphasize the danger of unhealthy lifestyles and give children tools to make positive choices, she said.
The school district is partnering in the project with the Communities That Care coalition, which includes the city of Quincy, Grant County Mental Health and Quincy Community Health Center.
— By Steve Kadel, firstname.lastname@example.org