The Vigo County School Board's sex education committee conducted the first of three public work sessions Monday, with presentations on existing curriculum as well as outside resources and agencies that help supplement instruction.

"It's information gathering in all three sessions with a hope to bring some sort of recommendation by the 13th [of July]" to the full board, said Rob Haworth, VCSC superintendent.

In the first part of the meeting, speakers included Holly Pies, VCSC curriculum coordinator of health education; high school health/physical education department chairs; and those affiliated with some of the outside agencies.

The second part of the meeting included comments from several health, physical education and science teachers.

Pies said the VCSC health curriculum is evidence-based and medically sound. Also, she said, "It has been vetted by a number of physicians, professors and universities."

At the middle school level, a supplementary resource called Teen Health is available for teachers to use and includes such topics as dating, the reproductive system, sexually transmitted diseases, contraceptives, diversity in relationships and risks of teen sex.

The supplemental middle school book is available to middle school teachers but not mandatory, Pies said.

Pam White, health/physical education department chair at Terre Haute North Vigo High School, believes the current curriculum and outside resources used "will give our students an excellent foundation for success."

Among the agencies that may supplemental health instruction is the Council on Domestic Abuse.

Rebecca Moore, CODA community prevention specialist, said she can address a number of topics depending on what a teacher requests.

Those topics include not only domestic violence and sexual assault, but also consent and how to say yes and no; self esteem; suicide awareness; and internet and technology safety.

Alex Bettag, health/physical education teacher at North Vigo, described the Creating Positive Relationships program — provided by the Crisis Pregnancy Center — as "one small piece of a very large puzzle" in terms of outside resources used to supplement the health/sex education curriculum.

Bettag believes the CPR program "does a phenomenal job" of teaching kids about how to have positive relationships with friends, family and significant others. It provides age appropriate instruction from sixth grade to high school, he said.

After the meeting, School Board member Joni Wise, a member of the sex education committee, described the first work session as a "good start."

Rosemarie Scott, also a School Board member and committee member, said, "We look forward to getting into the meat and the potatoes of the discussion at the next two meetings."

Wise said one of her concerns is the qualifications of those teaching the CPR program. With other agencies that come in and speak as part of the health curriculum, as described Monday, those speakers are content experts in their fields.

Her concern is that those who teach Creating Positive Relationships, a program of the Christian-based Crisis Pregnancy Center, are not experts in content area.

Two key goals, Wise said, are an outside review of the CPR program and ensuring that it is taught by content experts.

Two more work sessions are scheduled.

•Monday, July 6: Advocates for Creating Positive Relationships, a unit within VCSC’s sex education curriculum.

•Tuesday, July 7: Advocates for sex education reform.

Each session will begin at 6 p.m. in the West Vigo Conference Center, and each meeting will conclude at 8 p.m.

Currently, the school district partners with the Crisis Pregnancy Center, which offers an abstinence-based curriculum titled, “Creating Positive Relationships,” in middle and high school.

The school corporation's sex education curriculum drew considerable discussion at board meetings early this year.

Several community members are calling for a comprehensive sex education program and are critical of the currently used CPR program.

Indiana code does require that, if schools offer sex education, it must teach abstinence “as the expected standard for all school-age children” and teach that abstinence is the “only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and other associated health problems.”

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