Mar 16, 2023 - News

Gwinnett schools consider new sex education curriculum

Illustration of an eggplant and peach drawn on a chalkboard.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Gwinnett County Board of Education members will consider approving a new health and sex education curriculum at a meeting Thursday night.

Why it matters: Sex education and the question of whether schools should be responsible for educating students about this subject is always a polarizing topic in education.

  • Gwinnett’s proposed move away from the abstinence-focused curriculum has sparked a backlash from some parents, as first reported by the AJC.

Details: Materials for the new curriculum, called HealthSmart, would cost Gwinnett County Public Schools more than $15 million, according to tonight's meeting agenda. If approved, it would be implemented at the start of the next school year.

What they're saying: Dr. Tasha Guadalupe, the school system's health and physical education director, said at the board's Feb. 23 work session that Gwinnett is focused on adopting a "comprehensive health education program" and not just a sex education program that its current program, Choosing the Best, offers.

  • She also said some teachers who reviewed resources said Choosing the Best was "not free of bias or inclusive of our current population of students that we are providing instruction to."

The other side: School board members Dr. Mary Kay Murphy and Steven Knudsen were skeptical of the proposed move to HealthSmart.

  • Knudsen said Choosing the Best, which the district has been using for 20 years, has proven successful, adding that measures like student achievement, at-risk behaviors, and anxiety have been trending in positive directions in Gwinnett.

Board member Karen Watkins said Gwinnett County Public Schools, the largest in the state with 182,000 students, is very different from what it was 20 years ago.

  • "It sounds like our community is looking for something different," she said.

Zoom out: Georgia Department of Education's health and physical education plan calls on schools to educate students about sex and HIV/AIDS, disease prevention, safety, community health and alcohol and other drug use, among other topics. Age-appropriate lessons must also be taught to students about sexual abuse and assault.

  • Parents have the ability to opt their children out of these lessons.

By the numbers: The number of births among children and teens aged 10 to 19 has been on a steady decline in Georgia, from 13,087 in 2011 to 6,205 in 2021, according to Department of Public Health data.

  • STD rates among people aged 10-19 have been a bit more erratic over the last 10 years from 1,642.9 in 2011 to 1,595.7 in 2021, state data shows.

Of note: Board members will also vote on adopting instructional resources for math, social studies, language arts, career and technical education and world languages and dual language immersion.

What we're watching: Thursday's meeting starts at 7pm and will be streamed online.


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