Amid the ongoing debate over how Spokane students should be taught sex education, a Lewis and Clark High School senior’s research project stole the moment Wednesday.
Isabel Greeley opened the Human Growth and Development Citizens Advisory Committee meeting by presenting the findings of a poll she had handed out to 310 of her classmates at her high school. She asked them what they thought about the sex ed they received in Spokane middle schools.
“I decided that I wanted to help the committee in some way,” Greeley said. “It was a controversy that needed to be researched.”
Among her findings: Only 24 percent of girls “agreed” that they were satisfied with the sex ed they received, and 43 percent of boys answered the same way.
Some two-thirds of LGBTQ students wanted more sex education. Whether abstinence should be taught received the second-most “strongly disagreed” and “disagreed” responses of any question, and some 75 percent of students agreed they should be learning more about sexual orientation.
Another 79 percent either “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that they should be learning about abortion. Some 211 of the 310 students said they wanted more information on healthy relationships and communication. Two-thirds of the students said they wanted more lessons on what constitutes sexual abuse, and 75 percent of girls said they wanted to know more about birth control.
“The takeaway was that kids weren’t satisfied with the sex education they got in middle school,” Greeley said. Her comments were met with a round of applause.
Following her comments, committee members spent the following hour and a half critiquing various issues with the 94 lessons, detailed in volumes of pages, that are to form the sex ed curriculum for Spokane students grades four to nine.
“I’ve got 20 pages of issues,” the Rev. John Repsold said. “I feel we are walking into the same trap we walked into last year.”
The citizen advisory board voted last year to send the curriculum, which was mostly based around the Get Real program partially designed by Planned Parenthood, to the Spokane Public Schools board of directors for approval.
However, the board pulled the curriculum from the agenda just two days prior to the vote in June in response to last-minute concerns.
The committee again voted, this time 9-3, to approve the curriculum in September. But the issue was sent back to the committee, which had just finished its several-week review of the curriculum that includes fewer concepts from Get Real and more from other approaches.
“I wish I liked the curriculum more,” said committee member Debbie DuPey. “But it’s not going to have much of a shelf life. If it is not already out of date, it will be very shortly.”
Heather Beebe-Stevens, another committee member, said the proposed curriculum uses “dated language.”
“It doesn’t go into gender identity in any depth,” she said. “This is the 21st century, right?”
Sarah Fincham said the curriculum does some things well, and others not so much.
“My concern is that birth control is underrepresented,” Fincham said. “There is only one chapter on birth control. And there is only one condom lesson. There are far more abstinence chapters than birth control.”
Another member, Jason Soucinek, said he believed the committee was being asked to do too much too fast.
“We’ve never even done one grade before. I think this is a misuse of this committee,” Soucinek said. “I think we could not only meet some of the things that Isabel (Greeley) brought up but even go further.”
The committee ultimately voted unanimously to follow Soucinek’s and Beebe-Stevens’ request to go through all 94 lessons one by one. The committee members will take notes on lessons they don’t agree with and will meet May 2 to try to come to more of a consensus.
“I have no problem spending the next year-and-a-half going through this,” Soucinek said. At the end “we could say we all had a voice in this and it is very representative of our community.”
That community turned out later Wednesday at the Spokane Public Schools board of directors meeting with several impassioned speeches asking either that sex education be left to parents or that more lessons be included about how students who identify with other sexes should be welcomed.
Ken Barton said he grew up at a time when a person’s sexuality was kept secret.
“I think we should be accepting of all,” he said. “I just hope that we can get to the point in this country where we love people for who they are.”
But Pavel Kobzar said he could not support any curriculum that came from Planned Parenthood.
“That was shocking to me,” Kobzar said. “Knowing that organization, who kills the babies, would be in my schools, I cannot accept that. Sex education is a privilege of the parents.”