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Austin ISD Seeks Parent Input On New Sex Ed Curriculum

Gabriel C. Pérez

The Austin Independent School District is seeking parent input as it prepares to rewrite its human sexuality curriculum. 

The district hasn't revised its elementary and middle school curriculum in 12 years. Parents received an online survey Wednesday asking at what grade level various lessons should be taught. For example, when students should learn about gender identity.

The district is also hosting three parent-engagement meetings to gather input. 

AISD is focusing on the curriculum for third through eighth grades. The district will base the new curriculum on the National Sexuality Education Standards, which parents will be looking at in the survey.

The standards cover anatomy and physiology, puberty and adolescent development, identity, pregnancy and reproduction, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV, healthy relationships and personal safety.

Each category has what are considered grade-appropriate standards. For example, students in kindergarten through second grade would not learn about sexually transmitted diseases and HIV. Lessons in healthy relationships, puberty and identity would also change as students get older. 

Kathy Ryan, director of academics at AISD, says if students sit through lessons on consent in multiple grades it will look different each year.

"Consent doesn't just mean consent to have sex," she says. "Consent means consent to call me at home on the phone. If you have an interest in me and you start calling me every day and I'm not OK with that, I need to be able to tell you, 'Hey, do not call me every day. Stop.'"  

The consent lesson would also teach students how to handle rejection in a healthy way. 

The standards would also introduce social media and its effect on body image and bullying into the AISD curriculum, as well as sexual assault and abuse.

Ryan says when schools prepare to teach any of these lessons, parents will be informed weeks in advance and have the option to opt their children out of individual lessons or the entire curriculum. Students who opt out will complete other social-emotional learning lessons.

The district is gathering parent input on the standards through Nov. 30. It will present its curriculum to the Board of Trustees in February. 

The district is hosting the following meetings:

Thursday, Nov. 8 – Travis Early College High School, 6-7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 13 – Lanier Early College High School, 6-7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 15 – Eastside Memorial High School, 6-7:30 p.m.

Claire McInerny is a former education reporter for KUT.
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