SHAC debates format of sex ed

The Student Health Advisory Council debated in a Tuesday Zoom meeting over when, how and how long to offer health during this COVID-19 school year.
They agreed that it was important to provide human growth and development information to Ector County ISD students.
ECISD Assistant Athletic Director Hil Ochoa said a survey and research conducted last year showed there were 233 students between Odessa and Permian high schools taking health class. With about 4,000 students in each, that was less than 5 percent, Ochoa said.
Many years ago, SHAC began a partnership with Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and The Life Center to provide human growth and development curriculum, Ochoa said.
Ochoa said there was a point in time when the community had a high pregnancy rate, but there has been a “significant decrease.”
Human growth and development is usually taught in fifth through 10th grade. In September, the district was still phasing in students.
Texas Tech health sciences can offer a virtual class with a Texas Tech representative and classroom teachers, so it would not be unsupervised, TTUHSC Director of Community Health Education Lisa Platner said.
Texas Tech will not allow medical students to go into the schools currently because of COVID-19, so this is what was devised in the interim, Platner said.
SHAC member Aaron Thomas said he thinks they have to move forward.
“I just don’t want to go backwards,” Thomas said. “I feel like we’re making a lot of headway; we’re bringing down the pregnancy rate, and stopping one year or not doing it could set us back and we’re pretty much starting all over again from what we’ve already made headway on. I think it’s beneficial just to find a way to keep pushing through and figuring it out because this is kind of what life is going to be like for the next couple of months.”
In a non-COVID year, Ochoa said he gets about 40 to 50 calls in his office about the sex education curriculum.
“… Even though we offer the opportunity for parents to view the curriculum, I would say we still have a very low amount of parents that would go look at the curriculum,” Ochoa said.
“We do send a form. It’s not required. Kids can opt out of it, but there is a form that has to be sent home for parents to give them permission. On that form, it gives them the website to go and evaluate the curriculum, but I think … parents don’t do that. They just sign the paper and they send it. And I’m guilty of it. I have two kids,” Ochoa added.
He said he’s fine with the information, though.
“The district just felt kind of cautious about putting that information out virtually,” Ochoa said.
SHAC member Brenda Neckels said the virtual option is not ideal, but it’s not completely unsupervised.
“If parents are monitoring their kids learning at home, they might learn some stuff and they might find it a little less objectionable …,” Neckels said.
She added that they owe it to the youngsters to provide this information.
“This year, if nothing else, has taught us that we have to pay attention to public health or we can get into big trouble whether that’s sex education or epidemiology,” Neckels said.
Getting the information out to parents is crucial, SHAC members said.
One suggested way, in addition to emails, texts and mass robocalls, was to offer a Zoom meeting to parents.
“I think the wording is really important to let them know virtual doesn’t mean kids can log on whenever they want,” Neckels said. She added that it would be like a Zoom class.
Tom Lechtenberg, who chaired the meeting, said stressing that this is a live learning opportunity like any other ECISD class also is important. It’s not something that is prerecorded.
Another concern is condensing the curriculum. The program usually takes two to three days and is offered over a whole year. This version would have to be offered in a semester.
Lechtenberg said maybe they could negotiate with ECISD over how much time they could get.
Ochoa said Platner put a schedule together and it was presented to administration and they wanted to get feedback from SHAC.