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May 8, 2012 3:36 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Springs School Explores Teaching Sex Education In Earlier Grades

May 8, 2012 5:37 PM

Springs School officials are considering a proposal to teach the bulk of its sex and health education at an earlier age—beginning largely in fifth and 
sixth grades instead of eighth grade.

Health teacher John Foster delivered a presentation to the School Board on Monday night proposing the change in the curriculum. Currently, fifth-graders are shown a video on puberty. The next time they learn about sex and health is in eighth grade, when they are taught the main sex education subjects, which include puberty/hormones, reproduction, abstinence, HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, contraception and sexual orientation.

Mr. Foster is proposing the curriculum be modified so that fifth-graders are educated about puberty, body image, bullying and given an introduction to HIV/AIDS. In sixth grade, they would learn more about puberty, reproduction, relationships, sexual orientation, abstinence and contraception.

Fifth- and sixth-graders are generally between 10 and 11 years old, while eighth-graders are typically 13.

Board members said they’d like to set up a committee of parents, teachers and administrators to weigh in on the change.

While many agreed that there’s too much of a gap between fifth and eighth grade sex education, Board President Kathee Burke Gonzalez paused at the new proposal.

“When I see contraception in the sixth grade, I have to tell you, I take a step back,” she said. “In my sensibilities, I’d say we’re going too far.”

Mr. Foster stressed that the sex and health education program also addresses issues of sexual orientation—an important lesson for students to learn.

“We want to teach kids 
how to treat everyone the same way,” he said. “… People say the word gay. And when they say gay, they mean stupid and dumb.”

He added that words like that can be “very offensive to some people.”

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