Moffat County Board of Education considers update to sex ed policy | CraigDailyPress.com

Moffat County Board of Education considers update to sex ed policy

Moffat County School Board approved the first reading of a new Family Health and Sex Education policy during Thursday's meeting.

— The first public hearing and first reading of an updated Family Life and Sex Education policy was passed at Thursday's Moffat County School District Board of Education monthly meeting.

"Working with Jennifer Riley of The Memorial Hospital and the Craig Daily Press we identified some needs," said Superintendent of Schools Dave Ulrich at the October school board meeting. "This has gotten a great deal of attention."

In September, area providers began presenting "Building a Healthy You," a course they developed to help fill the gap.

Providers presented their concerns to the board at the October school board meeting.

"It was brought to my attention that the schools hadn't provided comprehensive sex education for a number of years," said The Memorial Hospital's Dr. Elise Sullivan, during the October presentation.

Craig Daily Press investigated these concerns and learned that both the reproductive health policy and teaching practices within the district were not in compliance with current state law.

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"We did not have the most up-to-date information," said Ulrich to the board. "Insuring we are meeting both policy and state statute; we are moving forward in adopting the most recent Colorado Association of School Boards' recommendations."

During the 4 p.m. work session at the November meeting, the board discussed two versions of the Family Life and Sex Education policy.

Both versions make sex education a requirement instead of an elective.

"Currently P.E. Health is where those (subjects) are taught, but it's not a requirement," said Board Member Tony Peroulis.

Ulrich confirmed that at present not all students receive lessons about basic reproductive health, but "as a result of this policy we will shore up and ensure no student is missed."

Under the new policy parents will have the option to review materials used to teach the subject as well as the ability to excuse their children from reproductive health lessons.

"They can remove a student at their discretion without the need to tell us why," Peroulis said.

After discussion, the board decided to move forward option two as it would not require parents to state a reason if they wanted a child excused from sex education classes.

The board also deliberated policy language about the classes within which sex education might be taught.

"Several courses are listed. It feels limiting to me," said Board Member JoAnn Baxter. "There maybe other opportunities for conversations such as in sociology or government."

The board decided to remove a list of specific classes from the policy.

The adoption of an updated policy is an important step, but so too is ensuring that teaching practices are changed. To that end, teachers and staff participated in sex education training last month.

Ulrich expects that the group, that attended training, will soon have an update for the district on their proposed changes to teaching practices.

School board members, like many parents, are slightly embarrassed to talk about sex education, but expressed support for ensuring students are receiving essential information about reproductive health through the schools.

"Information never hurt anyone," said Board Vice President JoBeth Tupa.

However a lack of information can have life-altering consequences.

"Moffat County has always had a significantly higher teen pregnancy rate than the state rate," said Dr. Sullivan in her October presentation to the school board. "If you look at our teen pregnancy rate. I'd like to set a goal together that we end up at the state average. Let's be average."

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.