Austin ISD looks to rework sex-ed that will mainly impact grades K-8

AUSTIN (KXAN) -- The largest school district in Central Texas is one step closer to changing its sex-ed curriculum, which hasn't been updated in more than a decade. 

One of the biggest changes to the Austin Independent School District curriculum includes medically naming and identifying body parts for the younger students.

"For most of our students, K-5, these are five lessons that we will deliver in May, mostly dealing with issues of relationships and families and some of them dealing with specific human sexuality," Dr. Lisa Goodnow, assistant superintendent of academics and social and emotional learning with the Austin Independent School District said. 

At a meeting Wednesday night, AISD parent Susanne Kerns presented the School Health Advisory Council (SHAC) a petition with nearly 700 signatures asking for changes. She says by implementing those lessons, it'll be inclusive of the LGBTQ community because it won't limit the lessons as sex only between a woman and man. She also believes it could make a difference when it comes to child sexual abuse. 

"It may be a little shocking for people because they are talking about labeling parts of a body if you're talking about ears, knees, ankles, you're also going to talk about a penis, you're also going to talk about a vulva," says Kerns. "But they're also just trying to take the shame away from that which I think in turn will help kids who are being abused or to protect them from being abused to be able to report it properly."

But for mother of two Johannah Heywood, it's too much too soon.

"I don't think anybody objects to sex education," she said. "What we would simply like is the school district to stick to standard biology and age-appropriate sex education and wellness."

Heywood also presented SHAC a petition with over 1,000 signatures against the changes and in a separate petition in Spanish more than 250 signatures. 

She says she and other parents are against the district potentially adopting the Advocacy for Youth's Rights, Respect, Responsibility sex education curriculum which was presented by SHAC at a previous meeting. 

Goodnow says the lessons have yet to be written and says parents will have the option to opt out of the lessons they disagree with and will offer an alternative. 

"We will begin developing those lessons in conjunction with campus support staff and district support staff and those lessons will be available for parents to look at," Goodnow said.

The district says before the lessons can be implemented they have to check to ensure they do not violate any local policy or state laws. Then, they'll decide whether to move forward with the curriculum for the next school year.

For the past 13 years, the district has been teaching "Abstinence Plus," which means they teach abstinence as the preferred method to prevent teenage pregnancy and STDs. AISD also educates students on goal setting, emotional support, risk education and addressing peer pressure.

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