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Battle Ground schools table new sexual health curriculum

Doug Sheddy speaks to a crowd opposing the adoption of “High School FLASH” Monday at Battle Ground Public Schools. Critics of the curriculum say its lessons on gender identity and sexual orientation are not appropriate for children. (Katie Gillespie / Columbian)
Doug Sheddy speaks to a crowd opposing the adoption of “High School FLASH” Monday at Battle Ground Public Schools. Critics of the curriculum say its lessons on gender identity and sexual orientation are not appropriate for children. (Katie Gillespie / Columbian)

BATTLE GROUND – Under public pressure, the Battle Ground Public Schools Board of Directors delayed its decision to adopt new comprehensive and sexual health curriculum.

By a vote of 3-0, the board voted Monday to table the adoption of “Comprehensive Health,” a general health textbook, as well as “High School FLASH,” or “Family Life and Sexual Health,” for its high school health classes. Board members Monty Anderson and Troy McCoy were both absent from the evening meeting.

“It’s important for us to stop, take a step back, see what best fits our needs,” Superintendent Mark Ross said to applause from a packed crowd.

More than 100 people filled the board room at the Lewisville Campus to testify against the FLASH curriculum. FLASH is a sexual health education curriculum designed by King County’s public health department, and it is accepted by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction as meeting state standards for the subject.

Critics have pressed the school board on the curriculum, arguing that its lessons on gender identity and sexual orientation is inappropriate for children.

A crowd gathered in the campus’ courtyard to celebrate the decision, rallied by Kenny Smith, former chair of the Clark County Republican Party. Smith has been a vocal opponent to the curriculum in recent days, suggesting on Facebook that the curriculum is part of an effort to “indoctrinate our youth to reject traditional family relationships.” He added at Monday’s meeting that he fears the curriculum, which was recommended only at the high school level, will later be adopted for younger grades.

Also in the crowd was Eileen Quiring, a Republican Clark County councilor and candidate for the at-large county chair position.

Quiring said she was there to support the “growing grassroots concerns,” and she said that she, too, was worried about the curriculum about gender identity.

“I just think for kids, I think it’s not good,” she said.

Several spoke in favor of the curriculum, praising its lessons about consent and against bullying.

“There’s a lot of fear, there’s a lot of hatred, a lot of misunderstanding around this curriculum,” Michelle Yenderrozos of Battle Ground said. “That shows we need more education.”

Yenderrozos cited a recent Gallup poll that suggests 4.5 percent of people in the United States are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Extrapolated down to Battle Ground’s student body of about 13,500 students, she reasoned, that means there could be more than 600 LGBTQ students in Clark County’s third largest school district. For those students, it’s critical that the LGBTQ experience be included in their sexual health education, she said. And for those students who aren’t, “We need to validate the experience of their LGBTQ peers,” she said.

“Not educating them on the experience of others is doing them a huge disservice,” she said.

Ross said it likely won’t be until September that the board reconsiders its sexual education curriculum. A committee of teachers and staff will offer their input on curriculum, meaning the board won’t be able to reconvene until school is back in session, he explained.