August 28, 2008

Elmbrook Board to Control Sex Ed Lessons Will Have to Meet Its Approval


Brookfield -- The Elmbrook School Board has changed its policies so that the board will approve any new lessons and materials used to teach the district's K-12 human growth and development curriculum, including sexual education topics that drew some parental objections.

A long-delayed, revised human growth and development curriculum will start to be taught in January, if the School Board approves the lessons and materials that the staff will develop this fall.

Still unresolved in those lesson plans are whether the district will start teaching 10th-graders how to properly use contraceptives and what contraceptive methods, including abortion, are available if a student is sexually assaulted.

An advisory committee that spent months last winter and spring reviewing the district's K-12 human growth curriculum was divided on whether those new topics should be added. The district already teaches high schoolers about contraceptives but not how to use them.

Elmbrook, one of many Milwaukee area districts that has wrestled with the best approach to sex education, does not have an abstinence- only curriculum; it provides health information but stresses that sexual abstinence is the only responsible choice for students. Many districts teach what's broadly termed human growth and development, but the thoroughness of the information varies widely.

In the Elmbrook district, School Board members voted 5-2 Tuesday, with Steve Schwei and Bob Ziegler opposed, to give an advisory committee and the School Board greater scrutiny of exactly what students will learn in human growth and development.

Past practice has been that an advisory committee consisting of teachers, parents, clergy, nurses and other representatives reviews the district's K-12 human growth curriculum and recommends what topics should be taught in each grade level.

Teachers and administrators then have selected materials and created lesson plans, which parents could ask to review to decide whether to opt their children out of attending classes.

Under the changes approved this week, after staff selects materials, the advisory committee will be reconvened to provide input to the School Board. Community and parent input also would be sought at multiple public review sessions.

The School Board then would approve the lessons and materials.

Schwei said the School Board was micromanaging the issue and should trust educators to handle the instructional details. School Board member Tom Gehl said he believed human growth was an anomaly that needed greater scrutiny.

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