AISD Previews New Sex Ed Lessons

Updated curriculum addresses sexual orientation, gender identity, and consent

They never teach the good stuff in sex ed.
They never teach the good stuff in sex ed.

Austin ISD parents got their first look this week at how students could be taught sex education next school year. District staff on Tuesday at Austin High previewed the lessons, based on curriculum standards adopted by the board of trustees earlier this year, and are offering opportunities for parents to provide feedback as the materials are finalized. AISD has opted to write its own lessons for grades 3-5, while purchasing "Get Real: Comprehensive Sex Education That Works" for grades 6-8.

The new curriculum, known formally as Human Sexuality and Responsibility, will not shy away from topics that have some parents worried, such as sexual orientation and gender identity. One of the lessons written by AISD staff introduces the concept of identity to fourth-graders, without any specific ties to gender. In the lesson, students would talk about whether it is possible to remove the color blue from a blue crayon. The idea is to teach that certain aspects of identity cannot be changed, and should be respected: "Even if they color over the blue with another color," the lesson reads, "or cover it up, they can never remove blue-ness from blue."

The lessons for sixth- to eighth-graders were developed by ETR, a youth-focused organization that promotes healthy sexual behavior, in collaboration with the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. According to the Get Real website, the program "emphasizes social and emotional skills" as tools for establishing "healthy relationships and responsible decision-making." (One of the new curriculum standards requires students to begin learning about consent in the third grade.) Get Real was recently updated to reflect more LGBTQ inclusivity by removing gendered language throughout.

The new lessons are set to be approved by the board at its June 17 meeting, with teachers training this summer and fall to begin using the lessons with students in 2020. Parents can opt their children out of any lessons, at any grade level, if they desire.

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Austin Independent School District, Sex Education, Get Real: Comprehensive Sex Education That Works, ETR, AISD Board of Trustees

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