The Canyon Independent School District, after months upon months of discussion and review, Thursday night adopted its health education curriculum and approved its procedures for acquiring and removing library and text materials, both with just one board member dissenting.
In May, CISD was scheduled to vote on the approval of the health education curriculum. Still, the issue is controversial within the field, with some in the community accusing much of the literature of having inappropriate language referencing LGBTQ+ issues and elements of sexuality education that address anything beyond abstinence, including birth control. There was even opposition to talking with students about recognizing abuse and other sensitive topics.
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To ease concerns, the district held multiple meetings with concerned parents and the School Health Advisory Council (SHAC), which included educators and parents, to help select the most appropriate health information provider. After a revision of the curriculum, many components were made parent optional so that their children would not be exposed to an education that individual parents opposed. Those who wanted their child to be taught more than the curriculum were given the opportunity to receive this information.
After multiple postponements of the vote to further study the proposed materials and give new board member Paul Blake time to review and familiarize himself with the topic, the board voted, with Blake being the lone no vote.
“I just think it leaves an opportunity to teach inappropriate material to our kids,” Blake said. “I think it’s too broad. I think we are dealing with a bad company and I don’t trust them. They say they will remove some things, but I just don’t believe them.
Blake said he had a specific problem with the use of the term “pregnant person” in the curriculum and referred to the government as the standard for why they use those terms. He said he had heard that it was part of language being included or removed from the curriculum.
When asked if he thinks there should be health education in schools, Blake thinks only basic health education, minus anything related to sex, should be among the items included.
“Health is one thing; sexuality education is another thing,” Blake said. “I think school should be out of the sex education business.”
Health education and its place in schools has come under fire in many school boards, with some parents wanting nothing to do with sex education or any mention of LGBTQIA+ in any literature.
When voting on the health curriculum, member Jennifer Winegarner suggested the board vote next month to remove the health curriculum as a graduation requirement. With pressure from a faction of the community, board members are considering eliminating all health education requirements due to the current controversial nature.
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During a public discussion, several community members said they oppose the health curriculum, citing that providers have made educational materials they disagree with — even if it’s not part of the proposed curriculum. Some commentators have gone so far as to offer faith-based alternatives in previous meetings.
The choice for the kindergarten through fifth grade curriculum was Quaver Health Education, recommended by 88% of SHAC, which has special parental involvement with only Texas Educational Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) requirements to be met in class.
Goodheart-Wilcox Education was selected sixth through 12thth class, with 100% SHAC approval. Just like the other approved curriculum, it will only teach TEKS with parental consent for other areas.
Following that vote, the board approved updates to the rules for acquiring and removing educational and library materials from the classroom or library. It provided the district’s selection criteria for all materials and the process for parents to challenge any materials within schools.
CISD has outlined its draft procedure and official definition of “grossly vulgar and harmful material” for its schools as follows:
- Contains content exhibiting or promoting excessive (multiple, overtly descriptive passages or pictorial images) interest in sexual matters.
- Contains content that depicts or describes grossly offensive representations or descriptions of extreme sexual acts, normal or perverted, real or simulated.
- Contains content that is clearly offensive to the prevailing standards in the adult community, as determined by the Canyon ISD Board of Trustees, regarding what is appropriate for minors.
- In general, it is completely without redeeming social value for minors.
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Even with these standards for their school materials, much is left up to community and school board opinion, but overall the board seemed satisfied with the guidelines in place.
Board member Linda Hinders spoke about the appropriateness of removing sexually explicit books and pornography, but said the books will not be removed just because some in the community don’t like the ideas in the material.
Blake asked his fellow board members if that included deviant behavior before the vote in which he voted against the measure.
“I don’t think anything needs to be done in our schools to encourage the alphabet part of society to make it normal,” Blake said. “I think it’s slipping, trying to normalize this for our kids when it shouldn’t be normalized.”
When asked if there should even be books that mention LGBTQIA+ in libraries, Blake said there shouldn’t be any in schools.
After the meeting, when asked to clarify his comment about what deviant behavior he meant, Blake said he meant LGBTQIA+ and any non-heterosexual behavior.
Cameron Rosser, CISD assistant superintendent, talks about the district’s school book standards process.
When asked to clarify the prevailing community standard aspect of library materials, especially when some members of the community find any LGBTQIA+ material offensive no matter what, Rosser said that ultimately the board will make those decisions about the appropriateness of materials as the public chooses them .