by JACOB H. FRIES & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & A & lt;/span & t a well-attended Central Valley school board meeting, the primary source of consternation centered on a suggested lesson for teaching kids how to use a condom correctly. The lesson began innocently enough ("Check expiration date"), climaxed quickly ("Intercourse occurs") and ended without cuddling: ("Do not flush down the toilet. Condoms can be harmful to sewer and septic systems.")
The demonstration, titled "Sequence to Correct Condom Use," was passed among some parents and board members at a June meeting. Part of the evening was devoted to discussing how the district should respond to a new state law requiring that contraception be taught along with abstinence. The law does not require schools to teach sex education, but says that those schools that do must include safe-sex lessons that are medically and scientifically accurate.
For many schools already teaching safe sex practices -- like in Seattle and Spokane -- the law's had little impact. But for places like CV, it's caused a much bigger stir.
At CV's June meeting, some board members said they'd rather forgo sex education altogether. Several speakers urged the board to simply ignore Olympia and stay the course of abstinence-only education. Dennis Olson, former principal at Liberty Lake Elementary, was one of them. "My first point was to say, 'I know you're compassionate. I know you want to follow the new polices and regulations, but it's OK to say no to the state.'"
Wanting more time, the board ultimately tabled the issue until last week's meeting. This time, Superintendent Ben Small said that after consulting lawyers, school officials now believe they can modify the state's sex curriculum and still meet the conditions of the law. The issue was sent back to a committee and is scheduled again for discussion in September, with a final decision now expected in October.
"There's a question: If we do this, what does it have to look like? And how far do you have to go with this?" says Small. He would not reveal his own personal view on the topic: "That's something I'd really like to keep to myself."
School board president Tom Dingus, however, is willing to share his perspective. "The single most objectionable thing was the fairly graphic demonstration of condom usage," he says, recalling the June meeting. "It described condom usage literally from beginning to end."
That said, Dingus says he believes the district can likely find a middle ground, one that still stresses abstinence but teaches safe sex in a less graphic way. "It doesn't have to be one or the other."
Furthermore, parents can choose to keep their children out of the sex ed classes after they've previewed the materials and videos to be used.
Consider a few figures from the state Department of Health: More than 13,000 girls ages 15 to 19 get pregnant every year in Washington. And about 70 percent of pregnancies in women younger than 20 were not intended. Also, a recent study by the University of Washington concluded that teaching about contraception was not linked to an increased risk of adolescent sexual activity or sexually transmitted diseases. Teens who received comprehensive sex ed also had a lower risk of pregnancy than those who got abstinence-only or no sex education at all.
But for many like Olson, the issue is not so much about statistics as it is about the proper function of schools in raising our children.
"We need to get back to what the role is of a parent," he says. "There are major ramifications if [schools] jump into this ... You're turning over some big rocks that have been around for quite a while."
"SEQUENCE TO CORRECT CONDOM USE"
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & his is an actual sample lesson from the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction that Central Valley school board members are considering. It is intended for use in 8th grade sex education classes.
Check expiration date.
Carefully open the condom wrapper.
Penis becomes hard.
Carefully unroll the condom over the penis. Make sure the "right" side is out.
Leave room at the tip of the condom. Pinch the tip of the condom as you unroll it -- don't flip it over. (If the wrong side is out after you begin to unroll it onto the penis, use a new condom.)
Apply lubricant over the condom.
Hold on to the base of the condom.
Tie the open end of the condom in a knot.
Discard condom carefully. Do not flush down the toilet. Condoms can be harmful to sewer and septic systems.