BATTLE GROUND — Battle Ground Public Schools has fielded comments on its pending sexual health curriculum update for more than a year, collecting surveys, taking comments and hosting public meetings.
But to the dozens of commenters who attended Monday’s school board meeting, that wasn’t enough.
The school district is considering a blended set of lessons from comprehensive sexual health programs for high school students. Monday’s meeting was only a first reading, with adoption slated for later this month.
About 150 people attended the meeting to make one final push for or against the proposed curriculum. The vast majority shared concerns that the lessons are age-inappropriate, incongruous with family values or promote a liberal agenda.
Doug Sheddy, who has been outspoken about the curriculum since it was tabled last summer, told the board the move for comprehensive sexual health is part of a politically motivated force “pushing and jamming” inappropriate material to children.
“Listen to your conscience, listen to your heart, listen to the morality that’s being expressed here,” Sheddy said.
Paul Kraft, husband of state Rep. Vicki Kraft, R-Vancouver, read a letter from his wife rattling off a list of what she perceives as the consequences of comprehensive sexual health education. Vicki Kraft was an outspoken opponent of a failed bill during the 2019 legislative session that would have mandated comprehensive sex education.
The letter suggested students are more likely to start “having sex earlier and as a result, criminal or violent acts may result.”
A substantial body of research suggests that students who have access to comprehensive sexual health education experience better health outcomes than their peers who don’t. According to a 2016 report in the Journal of Adolescent Health, comprehensive sex education can reduce the rates of sexually risky behaviors, improve reproductive health outcomes, increase contraceptive use and decrease pregnancy rates.
Some speakers were supportive of the curriculum, like Alyssa Hoyt, a mother with five children in the school district. Hoyt praised the curriculum as culturally and developmentally appropriate for teenage students.
“I would prefer they get information like this from their teachers rather than the back of the bus,” Hoyt said.
A health and fitness teacher at Pleasant Valley Middle School, Krystal Saling, also spoke in favor of the curriculum for its inclusion of the LGBTQ experience. She noted the high rates at which gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students are bullied.
“This is an issue of respect and teaching others to respect and accept everybody as they are,” she said. “LGBTQ students get bullied, harassed and physically assaulted at an astonishing rate. It is not OK.”
The district did acknowledge some changes to the curriculum based on parent feedback, including the removal of a video that contained swearing, and subjective language around how often abortions occur.
The school board voted 4-1 to move the curriculum along to a second reading. Director Tina Lambert voted no. The board will consider final adoption of the curriculum at its Oct. 28 meeting, with classroom implementation later this year.