Spokane Public Schools won't consider sex ed curriculum during board meeting tonight

After a months-long process, Spokane Public Schools inserted an item into this week's meeting agenda to finish changes to sexual education curriculum for grades 6 through 9. But at the last minute yesterday, the district decided to pull the item out.

Last week, the district put an item on its agenda for Wednesday night's meeting to approve a sexual education curriculum called “Get Real,” developed by Planned Parenthood and published by a nonprofit called Education, Training and Research (ETR) that provides science-based health and education programs. Yesterday, however, district administration decided to remove the curriculum adoption from the agenda, says SPS spokesman Kevin Morrison.

“I’m glad that they pulled it and appear to be open to taking a little bit more time,” says Stephanie Cates, chairwoman of the Spokane County Republican Party. “We hope that they reach out more broadly to the community to get public input.”

Cates says that the Republican Party feels that adopting the curriculum would be an endorsement of Planned Parenthood.

A Human Growth and Development citizens advisory committee, composed of at least 15 members and representing various local agencies, spent months starting at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year to narrow down curricula that would align with state standards. The committee settled on the “Get Real” curriculum for grades 6 through 9. The curriculum, according to the ETR website, focuses on abstinence from sex being the healthiest choice to avoid sexually transmitted disease or pregnancy, promotes relationship skills, and highlights the importance of parents in educating kids.

The current curriculum for middle-schoolers focuses on "human development, the reproductive system, rules and responsibilities of individuals, and aspects of healthy interpersonal relationships," says the district website.

"We went into this process very transparent," Morrison says. "With a normal curriculum adoption for other subject matters, they don't usually raise to this level of concern by citizens, and the board knows that and has a separate committee."

He says the idea is to get as wide a constituency together in support the educational materials since it's a more sensitive subject matter.

When the item was originally added to the agenda to consider the "Get Real" program, it was “widely supported,” Morrison says. But now discussions on adopting a new sex-ed program won't start until fall.

“Nobody was aware of any issues until yesterday afternoon,” he says. On Monday, one member of the committee that recommended the curriculum decided to withdraw support for it. The district administration decided to pull the item from the agenda because there was no reason to rush the process, Morrison says.

On Facebook, the Spokane County Republican Party had urged people to attend the meeting Wednesday and voice opposition to the sex-ed curriculum, saying it would “confuse countless children in our city” and “alienate many people of faith in our district.”

Cates refused to cite any specific part of the curriculum that Republicans objected to, but said the main problem is Planned Parenthood’s influence on it. Even though the curriculum adoption was removed from the agenda, she says some people may show up Wednesday night to speak out anyway.

“We believe that Planned Parenthood really has no place in our schools,” she says.