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Group Calls State Sex Ed Policies Vague, Wants JCPS To Go Further

Creative Commons

A group pushing for more comprehensive sex education guidelines in Jefferson County is turning up the pressure on school board members. A coalition of various social justice groups called Louisville Sex Education Now will hold a rally on Tuesday in hopes of getting Jefferson County Public Schools to offer more guidance to district sex ed teachers.

Right now, all public schools in Kentucky have to abide by the same state guidelines when teaching sex ed. They’re required to provide age appropriate instruction on pregnancy prevention and HIV/AIDS prevention, as well as “general information about the prevention and treatment of reproductive illness or disease.”

This is pretty open-ended. And that, says LSEN fellow Sara Hall, is a problem.

“[The state guidelines are] so vague, that a lot of time administrators and teachers don’t know what to teach, when they should teach it,” Hall said. “They’re really just afraid from backlash from parents if they teach the wrong thing and since there’s no guidelines to tell them what to teach, the students aren’t getting the information they need.”

LSEN has spent the past two years trying to convince JCPS and the school board to elaborate on these state requirements, with a focus on providing medically-accurate information and including segments on healthy, respectful relationships and consent.

Hall said currently, the standards are so open to interpretation that different schools in the same district — or even different classes in the same school — might be getting drastically different information about sex.

“Right now there is no standard in JCPS, so as long as they’re hitting those three points that the state requires, it’s being taught differently, and it’s a huge disparity in the type of education students are getting,” she said. “So, with these guidelines, we would ensure that regardless of economic status or background or where you live in the city, all young people are able to get this information.”

JCPS School Board member Chris Brady said in his opinion, it's important for schools to communicate with parents about what's being taught in health classes so everyone is on the same page.

"As a parent, I think it's important to provide scientifically accurate and age-appropriate health education, which includes sex ed," he said. "I think we could probably do with updated requirements and guidelines, not just with sex ed, but with nutrition, drug use, tobacco use, electronic cigarettes."

But Brady said he doesn't think updated guidelines is a task for the school board -- rather, he said it's up to the JCPS administrators to make recommendations, and the School-Based Decision Making Councils at individual schools to implement them.

Regardless, LSEN is planning a rally at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday before the JCPS Board Policy Committee meets at 3332 Newburg Rd.

A spokeswoman for JCPS said sex education is not currently on that committee’s agenda, but Hall said her group wants to send a message to the board, in hopes members will decide to take up the issue when the full board meets on August 8.

Calls to other JCPS board members for comment Friday afternoon were not returned.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Director of News and Programming.