The Vigo County School Corp.’s continued use of the Creating Positive Relationships program, an abstinence-based sex education curriculum that will now be taught on an opt-in basis, again generated public comment during Monday’s school board meeting.

Some wanted more details about the changes, while others continued to have concerns about the CPR curriculum’s continued use.

In November, the board approved a VCSC sex education plan, which called for the CPR curriculum — pending subcommittee approval — to be delivered by VCSC teachers. CPR will be provided as an optional week of enrichment activities, and families must opt in to the CPR curriculum.

A subcommittee reviewed CPR, considering state standards, medical reviewer comments, professional judgment and teacher/counselor/parent experiences. In part, the CPR curriculum had to undergo changes to be medically accurate.

On Monday, Karen Goeller, deputy superintendent, reported that the committee had completed its work and copies of the revised CPR curriculum will be available to parents and other community members in middle and high schools and at the district office.

CPR will be taught by retired teachers who will be trained in the curriculum.

In November — after months of controversy and discussion — the board by a 4-2 vote approved changes to its health/sex education program that called for the revisions to CPR, which is taught in grades 6-9. CPR is a program of the Crisis Pregnancy Center; in past years, Crisis Pregnancy Center representatives taught it.

When the board acted in November, it also voted that all sex education would be delivered by VCSC teachers using VCSC curriculum, based on Indiana standards and textbooks from Pearson and McGraw Hill. This would be the “default” option offered to students unless families opt out of it.

CPR will be in addition to the regular sex ed program taught by VCSC teachers; families also could choose CPR only.

In public comment, Brad Birchfield said he had heard from other individuals about some possible “truly disgusting things” related to content changes in health/sex education that included discussion of homosexuality, sex changes or transgender.

He said he hoped what he had heard was false or exaggerated. “If this is true, then there is a line being crossed” and that type of education should be left to parents, Birchfield said.

Ruth Fairbanks, who has been critical of the CPR program, said she was looking forward to reading the corrected curriculum. But she questioned why the district and board haven’t been willing to look at other available curriculums.

Margaret Hurdlik, who also has raised concerns about CPR, criticized officials for not providing more detail about the changes made to the CPR curriculum during the meeting. She said she and others have worked for nearly two years to research the issue and provide resources and scientific information. “I really feel disrespected right now,” she said.

She and other parents “want to see this new and improved, updated curriculum.” She also wanted to know why retired teachers would be teaching it.

Hurdlik also took an earlier speaker to task. “Tonight, I heard hate. ... My friends who are LGBTQ are not disgusting.” She added, “I want to know is this new curriculum inclusive. ... I feel we deserve a comprehensive discussion.”

Later, board member Rosemarie Scott said she opposes the use of CPR and she voted against its continued use in November, when the vote was 4-2. “I would have liked to see a different program.” She thanked those who raised concerns.

“I’m disappointed,” Scott said. But she will pay attention to the revised CPR program and hopes to observe some of the classes, “hoping some of the terrible shame and the tactics used in the past are gone. We need to stay vigilant ... because our kids deserve better than this,” Scott said.

CPR is not currently being taught, but after Monday’s board update, the committee will work on schedules for individual schools. “It will likely start this semester and extend into next semester,” district spokesman Bill Riley said last week.

After the meeting, Superintendent Rob Haworth told reporters that with the changes, “We believe we met the mandate the board set in front of us last year.” Some of the changes are aimed at strengthening inclusivity, he said.

Vandalism arrests

Also during the public comment period, other speakers raised concerns about the arrest of students who allegedly committed acts of school vandalism, particularly in bathrooms, as part of a Tik-Tok social media challenge that went viral and impacted schools nationwide. Terre Haute police reported that multiple arrests had been made.

At the board meeting Emma Crossen and Liz Brown both questioned the arrest of students and suggested a better approach would have been restorative practices, which focuses on relationships and communication rather than punishment.

“Do we really need to deploy the police to arrest our children?” Crossen asked. “I say absolutely not. To willingly send our kids into the criminal justice system flies in the face of what you read tonight as your mission, which is helping our kids rise to their greatest potential.”

After the meeting, Haworth said that social media can prompt kids “to do some very interesting things.” Students saw the Tik Tok challenge and carried that into schools.

“I worry what is the next Tik Tok” he said.

The district does use restorative practices in schools, but its use may not have been applicable in certain situations, he said.

“Law enforcement steps in and they also help look at a situation, along with Vigo County schools, and I’m going to guess that some of those situations rose to that level [of arrest],” Haworth said. He’s heard the next Tik Tok challenge may be to “slap a teacher.”

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.

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