A change in Weatherford Independent School District’s sexual education program was the subject of a prolonged debate Thursday among members of the board of trustees.
After the debate, the board voted 4-2 to add topics that cover oral and anal sex to the district’s sexual education program for sixth graders.
Board vice president Tiffany Branson and board members Mike Guest, Greg Shaw and Ashley Conlon voted at the July 21 meeting in favor of adding the topics to the sexual education program.
Board secretary Jeff Geyer and Brian Catlin voted against it.
The seventh board member, Dr. Joshua Tarbay, did not attend the meeting.
Before the board meeting there was an executive session set aside for separate discussion as the board received recommendations from the School Health Advisory Council to add topics that cover oral and anal sex for sixth graders.
“A SHAC is a group of individuals representing segments of the community, appointed by the school district to serve at the district level, to provide advice to the district on coordinated school health programming and its impact on student health and learning,” according to the official Texas Department of State Services website.
WISD already discusses sexual education topics in the district based on an abstinence-centered program. The sixth-grade program already talks about vaginal intercourse and outercourse.
The program, known as the Worth the Wait curriculum, is taught in sixth grade by counselors and nurses, who teach the class separately to boys and girls and lasts two weeks.
WISD counselor Lindsay Fuller felt omissions of oral and anal sex constrained her ability to do her job as a counselor effectively.
“This is not something I want to teach kids about,” she said. “This is not my favorite part of the day when I teach our kids, but it’s something that I know is beneficial for them so I want to be able to have open conversations with them. If they have questions and if they have things that they need to know and they don’t have someone that they can talk about those things with, we as a counselor group want to be able to address those things or help them find people that they can do that with.”
Geyer was the most vocal opponent of the change and felt that since the sexual education program already exceeded the standard for what was required of school districts in Texas, that adding additional topics was not necessary.
“We can’t tell the nurse what she discusses with the child,” he said. “The child comes up and says ‘I’ve got a hurt ankle’, we don’t tell her what words she can use and all that ... We don’t have a right as a professional to tell her what words she can or can’t use.”
Board vice president Branson disagreed.
Talking about sex to children needs to involve all aspects, she said.
“Why would we misinform them,” Branson said.
Guest felt the decision was an uncomfortable one, but a necessary one nonetheless, especially for children who may have been abused and not been aware of it.
“If we can do anything to make one kid safe, it’s worth it,” Guest said of sexual abuse.
“It’s empowering, that’s what we get when we use those two words,” said Lynn Pool, WISD student services director to the board.
Board member Greg Shaw was concerned about not educating children properly by omission of information in an age where such topics can be readily seen on a smartphone or internet which can misinform them.
“It gives them access to anything they want,” he said. “Are we guilty by omission?”
The focus shouldn’t be on the wording so much as the effects of it, Guest said.
“This is an awareness part,” he said.
“Weatherford ISD has used the Worth the Wait curriculum for the past 10 years. This program presents factual information and emphasizes abstinence,” said Dr. Jeffrey Hanks, WISD superintendent, in a July 22 press release. “We understand that parents may have questions about this course. Our desire is to provide parents the information they need to make informed decisions about their child’s education.”
The board of trustees also approved a proposal for the Rise Program for Weatherford High School.
“The goal of the program is to improve graduation rates for students who are in danger of dropping out of school, have dropped out, or are behind in core subject courses,” according to a July 22 WISD press release.
This year Weatherford ISD has combined the elementary and secondary handbooks into one campus handbook. This handbook will be posted on the Weatherford ISD website within the week. Printed copies are available on request by a parent/guardian, WISD said.