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In the future, the Creating Positive Relationships program will only be taught by Vigo County School Corp. teachers, and before that happens, the CPR curriculum must undergo necessary changes to be medically accurate.

Also, the CPR program, a week-long enrichment program, would be optional only, and families would have to "opt in" to receive it.

Those were among the revisions to the district's health/sex education program approved by the School Board in a 4-2 vote Tuesday night during a special meeting. In past years, CPR has been presented by representatives of the Crisis Pregnancy Center.

The recommendation approved by the board also provides options for students and families in the delivery of health/sex education:

• They can opt out of sex education.

• 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.

• They can opt-in to the CPR program, which would be in addition to the regular sex ed program taught by VCSC teachers. Families also could choose CPR only.

The revisions to CPR will be made by a VCSC subcommittee.

The plan approved by the board "gives a lot of choices," said Bill Riley, VCSC director of communications. The big change announced Tuesday, in addition to CPR being optional or opt-in, is that "our teachers will be teaching it."

Changes will be in place for the 2021-22 school year.

Health/sex education is taught in grades 6-9 through various classes: family and consumer sciences; science; health or biology.

In the past, students in grades 6-9 automatically received the week-long CPR enrichment program offered by the Crisis Pregnancy Center, unless families specifically choose to opt out. It has been offered in addition to the regular sex ed program taught by VCSC teachers.

Board members Rosemarie Scott and Joni Wise voted against the administration's recommendation, while Hank Irwin, Susan Powers, Paul Lockhart and Jackie Lower voted in favor. Mel Burks did not attend.

CPR has drawn much controversy this past year by critics who say it isn’t medically accurate and it is not inclusive of the LGBTQ community.

Scott voiced strong opposition to the CPR program and believes it should not be offered in VCSC schools. Parents overwhelmingly have told her, “Get this out. This is not healthy for our children," she said. "I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read the word archaic in the past year," a word many parents have used to describe the program.

Scott also described the program as medically inaccurate and she said it has negatively impacted students.

Haworth said it's been a very divisive issue in the community. Many parents and program chairs like the CPR program, he said. "We probably had as many parents for CPR as against CPR."

The recommendation provides choices for parents, he said. With sex education, "We can see what the emotion is around that." The district recognizes some deficiencies within CPR, which the recommendation seeks to correct.

"I think this recommendation provides that choice that a parent can opt in to that [CPR] program," he said.

Lower said the role of the VCSC subcommittee will be to make CPR scientifically and medically accurate and to "recognize the diversity of students in today's world." She said CPR does need major changes.

After the meeting, Haworth said CPR will be revised so that it is medically correct and has no examples or activities "that could lead to shaming."

Commenting on the recommendation approved by the board, he said, "I think it was the right place for all of our students, for all of our families and for all of our communities because you get to select — the offerings we have will meet your needs, regardless of where you are in your belief system in regards to how sex education should be delivered."

The administration recommendation also indicates the district plans to do more to address inclusion and the LGBTQ community.

“As our sex education curriculum focuses on delivering Indiana state standards, our efforts in diversity, inclusion, and civility will investigate ways that all families and students can find themselves within those standards and help teachers recognize how to meet students where they are,” Haworth's written proposal stated.

The district will create a district-wide strategic plan for diversity, inclusion, and civility.

“We can and will strive to be a more welcoming place for all students,” the recommendation stated. Another goal is inclusion of diverse people through hiring practices and representation on curriculum committees.

Contacted after the virtual meeting, Rebecca Lohse, CPR coordinator with the Wabash Valley Crisis Pregnancy Center, said the board's decision supporting Haworth's recommendation "is good news for students and parents that want CPR as an option. We deeply appreciate the diligent work and hours of listening spent by the board, subcommittee, and administration in considering this important issue. We fully accept and support the board’s decision on this matter."

Margaret Hurdlik, who opposes CPR, was disappointed the program will still be offered. "I feel there was a chance to cut ties with this program," she said. She doesn't believes it meets the needs of young people and "I don't see how you can make CPR inclusive of our LGBTQ youth."

She did view it as a positive step that in the future, VCSC teachers will be teaching CPR, rather than representatives of the Crisis Pregnancy Center.

The CPR program has generated controversy and discussion for more than a year.

Supporters cite its value in instructing young people about decisions on relationships and safe dating. Its core message is that postponing sexual activity until marriage "is the healthiest choice."

Critics say the state mandate for an abstinence-based curriculum does not preclude additional information to provide age-appropriate, medically accurate instruction on topics such as sexually transmitted diseases. They also say the curriculum should address the LGBT community and those with disabilities.

Collective bargaining agreement approved

As expected, by a 6-0 vote, the School Board approved the 2020-21 collective bargaining agreement with teachers.

Among the provisions of the contract, there will be no base salary increase for the 2020-21 school year.

A stipend of $1,100 will be paid to all returning teachers rated effective or highly effective. This stipend will be paid by Dec. 11.

In other contract highlights:

• Medical insurance – VCSC will contribute an amount that is equal to the same percentage of the 2021 premiums as it did toward the 2020 premiums. Additional dollars will be involved.

• If the 2020 year-end cash balance in the education, operations and rainy day fund (combined) exceeds $16.5 million, teachers will receive an additional stipend by March 1. According to the agreement, 67% of the excess beyond $16.5 million will be divided among teachers.

• Teachers who chose the high deductible health care plans will receive a contribution to their Health Savings Account: $400 for single, $600 for family.

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

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