Last Wednesday the Human Growth and Development (HG&D) Committee set up by the MAPS Board of Education to study and recommend changes to the district’s health curriculum in order to bring it into compliance with a recently passed state law finished going through the suggested changes to the high school curriculum at its weekly meeting.
The committee finished reviewing an updated listing of what the Scott Arneson proposed teaching as the HG&D component that he felt would bring the district into compliance with the new law. He had started work on the update in conjunction with the previous version of the committee before it had been disbanded by School Board President Jeff Verdoorn and reformed in September.
Although the committee had dealt with the majority of the more controversial portions of the curriculum the week before, it still took about two hours to work their way through the rest of the detailed list. This occurred after a brief discussion at the start of the meeting about what one member thought was the inadvisability of teaching about homosexuality in the class, which is taught mainly to high school sophomores.
(Editor’s note: The Foto News has opted to not identify members of the committee who are not members of the school board or district employees in order to allow them to be able to discuss and debate items more freely during sessions, even though the identities of the group are public knowledge.)
The member said that while he understands that the state has mandated that certain things now have to be taught as part of the HG&D curriculum, the state has also said that certain things can be downplayed. He felt that homosexuality should be one of these topics.
Dr. John Sample, Director of Special Education and secretary for the committee, said that the district was not teaching homosexuality, nor was it promoting it. He said that the guidelines from the Department of Public Instruction clearly stated that MAPS could not discriminate against any sexual orientation as part of the curriculum.
The committee also briefly clarified how the consequences of both physical and verbal sexual harassment would be taught in Arneson’s class. The consequences of complaints were also discussed. While the district has its own policies regarding how offenses are investigated and punished, parents also have the right to pursue legal punishment by pressing charges, if they desired. Sample said that while the district has always taken the matter seriously in the past, it has addressed the matter on a case-by-case basis.
“Under the new curriculum, the possible consequences of sexual harassment would be explained to the high school students during this class by the School Resource Officer,” Sample said.
He said not only would what constitutes sexual harassment – something as simple as a pat on the rear if it is unwanted and taken as a threat by the person receiving it – be explained to the students, so would how bullying gays and lesbians for their sexual orientation could be considered a hate crime. Sample said because of this, the district policy would become more proactive to not only sexual harassment but also bullying.
Arneson said that the HG&D section of the health class would take about three weeks to cover. He said it would all be tied to the theme of making healthy lifestyle choices that is repeated throughout the course. As with alcohol and drugs, abstinence from sex would be repeatedly emphasized, he said. Arneson said that the way he foresees teaching the updated curriculum would be by demonstrating what is locally considered moral by what are the social mores of the majority of the community. These would be compared to and contrasted with the mores of different societies and cultures.
He said he can foresee where some of the new subject matter will be discussion starters with the students, he also thinks some of the more controversial aspects can be downplayed with little discussion. He also said he will repeatedly stress that students should talk to their parents about much of what is covered.
One such area was the sexual response cycle, which explains what happens physiologically before, during and after intercourse, as well as knowing how to respond to the feelings that arises from each of the four stages. Arneson said it boils down to teaching the students about good decision making and having their own moral values, something that their parents are a big part of developing.