The Knappa School District has suspended the bulk of a state-created middle school health curriculum that includes a basic sex education component after parents asked for a review of the course.
Besides lessons about human reproduction, the “My Future-My Choice” curriculum, intended for sixth grade students, covers information about puberty, bullying, marginalized groups, healthy and unhealthy relationships and issues of general and sexual consent, among other topics. It has been used in Knappa for nearly a decade.
But supplemental worksheets provided by teachers that touched on questions and discussion about biological gender and gender identity raised concerns among parents.
Other parents said they did not receive the opt-out forms the school sends home with students ahead of the course and were surprised when they found out their children were going through the curriculum.
The parents’ request for a review of the use of the state curriculum in Knappa is the only such request in recent memory, according to Superintendent Bill Fritz.
A curriculum committee assembled to hear the request opted Tuesday to suspend six of the 10 lessons included in the curriculum, pending a final decision. The committee plans to meet again next week to discuss the matter further in a closed session.
Fritz emphasized that the curriculum was created by the state. Teachers have professional discretion to supplement any curriculum the school district uses in order to enhance students’ understanding of a subject or to make it more relevant to the particulars of their students’ own lives, he said.
But with the health curriculum, he said at the Tuesday meeting, “the district recognizes that with this type of content, parents expect us to implement the curriculum they have actually viewed so that there are no surprises.”
He has since directed teaching staff to implement the health curriculum as designed, without supplementing, in the future.
The school district has also made changes to how parents will be notified about the health course. Eight students in sixth and seventh grade had parents opt them out of the course this school year.
Representatives of the Knappa Parents Organization attended the Tuesday meeting and presented their concerns, as well as an alternative curriculum, to the school district’s committee. They had encouraged community attendance at the meeting, billing it on a Facebook event page as a “Transgender Curriculum Hearing.”
They said they felt certain subjects were outside the bounds of a public school curriculum.
“Issues relating to gender identity, sexual preference and sexual orientation that are better left to families to handle,” Christopher Morey, the organization’s president, told The Astorian.
Knappa Parents Organization is a new group. Its Facebook page was created in May. The founding members include a mix of longtime, multigenerational and newer Knappa residents, according to Morey.
“The common cause was the overwhelming feedback from our fellow community members who felt they had no voice at our school,” Morey told The Astorian.
Concerns about the health curriculum united the group initially, but there are other issues they hope to bring to school leadership.
“As we move forward, our group will take up the issues most relevant to our membership,” Morey said. “We hope our efforts will be successful in restoring academic rigor to our schools.”
The organization’s website states, “Our mission is to ensure that all children in the district are treated as individuals, not by a group identity, and receive an equal, fair, traditional education.”