A handful of concerned parents addressed Helena school trustees about the proposed health curriculum at a work session Tuesday night.
The 62-page comprehensive draft document was introduced two weeks ago outlining nutrition, social and emotional health, structure and functions of the body, and more.
Area residents who spoke during the general public comment period were most concerned with the sex education portions of the document. They also say the district didn’t involve enough parents who are not district employees in the two-year process of compiling research, writing and editing the proposed document.
Brian Ackerman said he’s read the proposed health enhancement document and said it’s obvious that a lot of time and energy were invested.
Although the proposed curriculum is good, he said, nobody has said it’s the right one.
“There’s a half dozen pages that are getting stuck,” Ackerman said.
He’s also concerned about the implementation process.
“If we miss the ball, we could destroy generations of children — that’s what is at stake here,” Ackerman said. “That should be decided before we approve this whole hog.”
The draft provides a guideline for when sensitive topics should be introduced, claiming age-appropriateness. The proposed document’s reproductive system portion aims to teach proper names of body parts starting in kindergarten. In first grade, students should understand that human beings can love people of the same gender and people of another gender. By second grade, students should understand that making fun of people by calling them gay is disrespectful and hurtful. In fifth grade, the document says students should understand that sexual intercourse includes but is not limited to vaginal, oral or anal penetration.
Mikal Wilkerson, wife of trustee Trevor Wilkerson, said a group of parents recently organized and formed Helena Youth Advocates. She requested on their behalf a 30-minute slot at next month’s meeting, which chairman Michael O’Neil denied. He said that in order to provide opportunity for everyone wanting to speak as well as an appropriate time for trustees to hear and process public comment, residents will be given a two-minute time limit.
Mikal Wilkerson said she supports sex education in school, but said the public needs more time to evaluate the document, offer comments to trustees, and be involved in editing.
“We aren’t against sex education in the school,” she told the Independent Record. “We are for medically accurate and age-appropriate (information).”
She said the final document should reflect the values of the city.
Helena resident and expecting mother Theresa Frei said more non-district-employee parents need to be at the table.
She’s also troubled about the mention of universal values in the document.
“I’m concerned they discuss universal values, but don’t enumerate them,” Frei said.
Former educator Rebecca Mastee said the definition of married in the draft disregards the way it is described in the Montana Constitution.
Trustees had no dialogue with any anyone who spoke about the health enhancement draft since it wasn’t on the agenda. Interaction and discussion from the board will come next month.
The Helena Youth Advocates invite the public to attend a meeting scheduled for June 30 at the Lewis and Clark Library from noon to 2 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. where they’ll have a petition for residents to sign against the board approving the document.
Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081 or email@example.com