Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

School board looks at sex education


Haines’ school board thinks that the district’s health text book falls short on sex education.

Specifically, the text does not tackle contraception beyond abstinence. And it is silent on gender identity matters.

“I was concerned when I read that textbook, because that’s an abstinence-only textbook,” said board member Sara Chapell at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

Meanwhile, board members and superintendent Tony Habra voiced confusion about the board’s legal role in adding new materials.

On Oct. 26, a new state law went into effect that requires school boards to approve most, if not all, aspects of teaching sex education. These include approval of the health curriculum, the sex education materials and of the health instructor teaching sex education. The new law also requires early parent notification before the sex education lessons.

But does everything the students see in the sex education unit have to be approved? Habra plans to look into the details of the law.

In 2013, the board approved the high school health curriculum, which included sex education chapters in a 2011 edition of the textbook. On Tuesday, it approved health teacher Mark Fontenot as the sole sex education teacher.

It also approved Tuesday the 2014 edition of the “Pearson Health” textbook, which included five chapters on sex education. The school has used editions of this textbook since 2001, with chapters updated in newer editions with new statistics, illustrations and pictures.

Chapell said she was uneasy approving the chapters – chapters 18 through 22 in “Pearson Health” by Pruitt Allegrante and Prowthrow-Stith – as the sole material for sex education because information about birth control and gender identity are not included.

school board president Anne Marie Palmieri said she didn’t want parents to misconceive that the district is just teaching abstinence if the book is the only approved sex education material.

Fontenot said he sometimes uses an additional PowerPoint presentation or shows Google images, condoms or a pregnancy due-date wheel in his freshman health classes.

The board was confused whether all of those materials have to come to the board for approval, or if its certification and trust in Fontenot give him the authority to choose supplemental materials freely.

This also becomes tricky because the law requires the curriculum and all sex education materials be available for parents to review. By law, the district must also send out a letter to parents notifying them about the upcoming sex education unit at least two weeks before it is taught.

The district is in a time crunch to finish the approvals and parent notifications for the unit to be taught by the end of the semester. The board unanimously approved the textbook chapters with a caveat that more materials would be added that specifically address birth control and gender identity.

If all sex education materials have to be approved by the board, it may do so at a Nov. 15 meeting.

Board members are also required to review and approve the K-8 health curriculum, which will come before them at the December school board meeting.


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