BATTLE GROUND — Battle Ground Public Schools continued to tweak its sexual health education policy Monday, allowing teachers in high school electives to address human development and reproduction.
The school board voted in October to scrap requirements that it teach sexual health education. Instead, the district decided it would only offer fifth-grade human growth and development, as well as the limited lessons required by state law.
But Monday’s change adds high school elective courses to that slate of exceptions, predominantly affecting Advanced Placement courses that address topics overlapping with sexual health education. The board voted 4-1 on the change, with board member Tina Lambert casting the only no vote.
Allison Tuchardt, the district’s director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, said her department heard concerns from teachers who were uncertain about what they could and could not teach in their classrooms.
“We need to clarify what is allowed,” Tuchardt said.
The decision could also open the door to the creation of a course that includes comprehensive sexual health education curriculum as a high school elective. However, such a class would need to be developed by the district and adopted by the school board at another time.
Battle Ground in recent months has become a flashpoint for comprehensive sexual health education in Washington. Districts are only required to teach about HIV and AIDS prevention. If sexual health education is offered, it must be up-to-date, scientifically accurate and inclusive of all students regardless of gender or sexual identity.
Washington is one of the 21 states that do not mandate schools teach sexual health education, despite research suggesting access to such curriculum makes children safer and healthier. But that could change in the upcoming legislative session.
Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, and Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle, chair of the House Education Committee, have introduced a bill that would mandate comprehensive sexual health education to all students by the 2022-2023 school year.
Rep. Vicki Kraft, R-Vancouver, a vocal opponent of comprehensive sexual health education, urged the board at Monday’s meeting to wait and see how state law changes before making additional changes.
“I would ask you to stop making more decisions, see how things go in Olympia, come back and at that time talk to your parents some more,” Kraft said.
Monday’s crowd was more subdued than in previous meetings, but commenters offered the same binary they have in recent months. On one hand are parents who praise comprehensive sexual health education for its inclusive lessons for LGBTQ students. They said it helps students make safer choices about their own sex lives and reduce sexual assault rates.
“Our students need this vital information,” said Eunice Ingermanson, who helps oversee a group for the parents of LGBTQ children. Added Ingermanson, students “need it to protect them from unplanned pregnancies, unwanted sex, sexual abuse, physical abuse, HIV, AIDS and other STDs.”
On the other hand are critics who believe the curriculum is contributing to promiscuous behavior among teenagers and threatening their ability to discuss sex with their children at home on their own terms.
Several, like former Clark County Republican Party Chair Kenny Smith, criticized the school district for the repeated changes to the sex ed curriculum.
“We’re developing some trust issues,” Smith said. “It seems like what we’re being told isn’t what’s actually happening.”