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Red Oak to take abstinence-based, parental-choice approach next year

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DIANA BUCKLEY
Ellis County Press
RED OAK -- A new abstinence-based curriculum was approved by Red Oak ISD to teach Red Oak students about human sexuality and AIDS this school year.

'I'm proud of the approach we've taken,' said Superintendent Kay Waggoner. 'It's totally abstinence based, parental choice.' 

Rather than hand out condoms to students, as some districts do, parents will be mailed a brochure on contraceptives.

Health Advisory Council Chairperson Sheila Sherman indicated the curriculum was developed by a committee of 27 volunteers, some from each campus as well as parents and community members, and was designed to meet Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) guidelines while supporting the community's views.

'The key components are important,' she stated. 'And these are: healthy choices, refusal skills, abstinence and parental choice.'

TEKS guidelines include topics 'either foundations or direct instruction,' Sherman said. 'For the younger grades, it's simple, germs and choices.'

The district plans to continue with the one-day program Aim for Success for grades 6 through 12. The program focuses entirely on abstinence as a means for students to protect themselves both from unwanted pregnancies and from sexually transmitted diseases.

'We wanted to reinforce abstinence in the regular curriculum,' said Sherman.

No student will attend human sexuality/AIDS instruction without parental approval. Separate approval will be required for students to attend the Aim for Success program.

Citing the district's high statistics for sexually active teens, the committee reached the decision to provide a brochure on contraceptives. This brochure will be mailed to the parents in conjunction with the student's enrollment in health classes at the High School.

The accompanying letter states, 'A survey conducted by Aim for Success in 1999 indicated that 36 percent of all students at Red Oak High School have had sex. In the over-16 age group, this figure jumps to over 50 percent.'

The letter goes on to say, 'We are mailing (the brochure) to you for you to decide as a parent whether or not to share this information with your child.' The brochure will not be distributed to the students in class.

Trustee Lynne Grandstaff noted some topics, such as homosexuality, are designated in the curriculum as 'not discussed' or 'student initiated questions only.'

'Is there something in front of the teacher, some guideline?' Grandstaff asked.

Sherman said it is suggested to teachers during training that students with such controversial questions place their questions in a box so they can be answered in class without mentioning any names, or so they can be answered in a private consultation.

'This could put a teacher in a bad position,' said Board Vice President Ric Jamison. 'Where they couldn't defend themselves.'

Waggoner, however, felt having the student place the question in a box was a good solution. 'I think that gives the teacher an out,' she said. 'You will have some wild cards out there that will just throw (questions) out there.'

All materials are available for parental review at the administration office or by calling Sherman at (972) 617-2941. Copies can be requested for a small feee.

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Nelson Propane

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