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Panel Urges New School Sex Education Curriculum

April 21, 1988|ESTHER SCHRADER | Times Staff Writer

A school board-appointed committee of parents, teachers and community representatives on Tuesday recommended that sexuality, AIDS and masturbation be discussed in the Glendale Unified School District's elementary school classrooms.

The report from the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on Family Life Education, formed at the order of school board members nine months ago, proposes expanding sexual education programs throughout the district.

If board members approve the proposal, it would outline the first consistent district philosophy on sexual education: Advising students to abstain from sex before marriage but also teaching them about birth control and sexually transmitted diseases.

"We've had bits and pieces being taught before, but this is the first time we've ever established a broad philosophy which will be followed throughout the district," said Director of Curriculum and Staff Development Gregory Bowman, who served on the committee.

The report spurred little discussion after its presentation at Tuesday's regular school board meeting. Board members planned to study the proposal further before acting on it.

Vote Within Month Possible

Superintendent of Schools Robert Sanchis said a plan based on the committee report could be ready for a board vote within a month. If the proposal is approved, a committee of teachers would then meet to formulate specific curriculum.

The committee recommends that a limited sex education curriculum be established for fifth- and sixth-graders and more comprehensive programs be developed for junior high school and high school students.

Sex education is now taught at Glendale schools only at the 10th-grade level. Junior high school science classes address human growth and development and reproduction and an after-school program sponsored by the Parent Teacher Assn. is offered at some schools to fifth- and sixth-graders.

"What the committee proposes is really different from the content of most science classes, where the kids are just being given straight information," Bowman said. "It's a little less clinical, a discussion process, a dialogue."

Earlier this spring, the board voted to include discussion of AIDS in the Guidance, Health and Driver Education course required of all 1,500 10th-grade students at the district's four high schools.

If the board approves the committee's recommendations, AIDS and aspects of human sexuality will be incorporated in a seventh-grade course called Skills for Adolescence.

The course is offered throughout the district and now deals with such topics as drug abuse, decision-making and peer pressure.

In elementary schools, the committee recommends teaching fifth- and sixth-graders about puberty, genetics and birth defects, sexual relations in the context of marriage, resistance to peer pressure, sexual stereotypes, the birth process and a general discussion of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. The report also recommends discussing masturbation.

Parents Would Be Notified

None of these topics are a part of the district's formal elementary or junior high school curriculum now.

District spokesman Vic Palos said parents will be notified before the new curriculum is instituted and will have the opportunity to review course programs and materials. Palos also said that parents may request in writing that their children be excused from participating in the new curriculum.

Bowman said goals of the new policy will be to discuss sexual behavior in a broader ethical and moral context than children are now exposed to through outside influences such as movies and television.

The report stresses abstinence as the best form of birth control, Bowman said, but recognizes the need to make students aware of birth control methods.

"It's not just enough to say no," Bowman said. "You have to empower kids with the decision-making capacities to say no without fear of losing friends."

The Family Life Education Committee, chaired by Boy Scouts of America representative Harry Smith, is made up of 22 school administrators, students and community representatives.

The report they prepared closely follows guidelines suggested in a State Department of Education report on family life/sex education released last year.

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