The Merrill Area Public Schools will most likely decide if it is going to keep its human growth and development policy, and the change a new state law requires in the sex education component of health classes, or rescind the policy entirely at a meeting Sept 8.
The board has to make this decision by Sept. 30 to comply with the changed law. Having all nine board members vote on the issue is very important considering how much discussion the change has generated in the community. The board originally intended to decide on the policy Sept. 27, giving the Human Growth and Development Advisory Committee a chance to hold one more meeting before then to firm up its recommendation.
“The reason they have decided on possible action on the eighth is because on the 27th there are a number of board members that can’t be there because they’ll be out of town,” Said MAPS Superintendent Dr. Lisa Snyder. “And that is pretty much the case throughout September; we couldn’t find a date when all board members could be there. The board president feels very strongly that all members should be present for this important decision.”
If the board does not rescind the policy, the committee will spend the rest of the semester fine tuning it. The change in the curriculum at all levels would require a second vote by the board by the end of the semester. The section of the class affected by the law isn’t taught until the end of the semester at the high school and in the spring at the middle school. This gives that committee time to get it right, taking into account the additional input it is now receiving from the community.
“If the board doesn’t rescind our policy on human growth and development, then we teach human growth and development. The only way that they could not comply with the law is to rescind our current policy. If that goes through, we have adopted the comprehensive curriculum. But what a lot of people don’t understand is how much local control we have over how it’s taught and when it’s taught. We have complete control over those issues,” Snyder said. “So that advisory committee would make a recommendation to the board (on the new curriculum) and the board would have a final weigh in after listening to our community and stakeholders of how we teach those topics and at what age level.”
Snyder said that the district received formal notification of the new statute in April and has been working hard on how the change will affect MAPS classes ever since. The committee has reached a stage where the board must weigh in and give direction on where to go from here.
“We had the entire summer for the advisory committee to work on the issues, to work on what it would look like to comply with the law, since the advisory committee is working under the assumption that we have a (current) policy, so we would have to align our practice to that policy,” she said.