A capacity crowd — when factoring in social distancing — expressed resounding support for the Creating Positive Relationships supplemental sex education program Monday during a Vigo County School Board committee meeting.
The meeting was the second of three public work sessions planned by the School Board's sex education committee. Those presenting included advocates for Creating Positive Relationships or CPR, a unit within VCSC’s sex education curriculum; time also was allowed for citizen comment.
At the outset, school board president and committee member Hank Irwin told the audience, "There has been no proposed curriculum changes at this time. We are in an information gathering stage."
After the meeting, Superintendent Rob Haworth said a recommendation may not go before the full board next Monday as he had previously suggested. "I don't know if that's as clear now as what it once was," he said. At last week's committee meeting, he suggested a recommendation would go to the full board July 13.
"We are still waiting to hear back from a couple of reviewers," Haworth said. "Hopefully, that would take place this week, but I'm not as confident as I was before the July 4 break."
The reviewers are looking at "our entire process for delivering sex education," he said.
Asked if there was a possibility of more than one option being offered for sex education, Haworth said, "I can't speak to where the board would go and what they would want to do. But clearly right now we have more than one option, that option to partake in the CPR curriculum or opt out."
Monday's two-hour session included 24 speakers — and all received applause. The first seven included CPR representatives and other medical/health experts, and the last 17 provided citizen comment.
CPR emphasizes that “postponing sexual activity until marriage is the healthiest choice” and it focuses on developing healthy relationships. It also encourages young people to consider the physical, mental, emotional and social aspects of being sexually involved.
One of the speakers, Jeff Harpole, suggested that if the school district eliminated the CPR program and adopted a more comprehensive sex education program, some parents "may find other educational pathways" and take their students out of the school district.
The first speaker, Dr. Eric Beachy, a family physician, said he believes removal of the CPR curriculum would be "a terrible mistake."
CPR "places the physical aspects of sex education within the context of whole-person wellness," he said.
Beachy told the committee, "Let's not jettison a curriculum that seeks to teach our students more than just reducing the physical consequences of sexual activity, but rather helps them to cast vision in their own lives for healthy relationships including the proper role of physical intimacy in those relationships."
The district should continue to teach students that "sex is not a commodity that we will teach them how to 'safely' exchange for pleasure, but rather an expression of affection and love so intimate and so personal that we will teach them how to appropriately reserve it for the context of a committed, loving, trusting relationship," Beachy said.
Ashley Delaunois, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner with four children in VCSC schools, cited studies indicating that delaying sexual activity increases the chances of high school graduation among girls and decreases the chances of STIs among both girls and boys.
Further studies have begun showing a "statistically significant association between sexual initiation age and depression among girls ages 11 to 18." Another study suggests that among adolescents and teens, poor mental health "has a reciprocal relationship with casual sex as each contribute to the other over time."
During the public comment portion, Tim Ramseier, executive director of Wabash Valley Youth for Christ, also endorsed CPR. "I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I support this program," he said. He also referred to strong support for the program by VCSC teachers last week.
After the meeting, school board and committee member Joni Wise sought to clarify some misinformation presented during the work session.
In an email, she said, "The board has never discussed adopting or has considered a CSE [comprehensive sex education program]. This is a Facebook rumor, which also includes very offensive CSE curriculums cited as to what we are 'considering.'"
Wise added, "The only thing we've asked is to have the current curriculum reviewed for medical accuracy and age appropriateness. No one should want this review prohibited, whether a person is for the CPR current curriculum or against it. If the curriculum is reviewed by content experts who do curriculum review as a credentialed profession, we will advocate for CPR to continue in the VCSC, with VCSC faculty teaching it."
Last week, VCSC health educators addressed the sex education curriculum outside of Creating Positive Relationships. On Tuesday, July 7, [tonight] advocates for sex education reform will address the committee.
A debate over sex education in Vigo County schools has been ongoing since last fall, when some parents, students and former students began challenging the currently used Creating Positive Relationships [CPR] program.
Those challenging CPR are concerned that for young people who do engage in sex, CPR doesn’t adequately instruct them on how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. They say the curriculum is too narrow and doesn’t address LGBTQ issues.
Monday's meeting took place at the West Vigo Elementary conference center.