Changes to Round Rock ISD sex education curriculum put on hold

The Round Rock ISD board of trustees is postponing a decision on whether to modify the district's sex education curriculum for eighth-grade students.

The proposed list of changes, which had been recommended by the district's School Health Advisory Council, was pulled from the agenda for the Nov. 15 board of trustees meeting prior to any discussion or vote.

Earlier in the week, district officials realized there could be a problem with how the SHAC was formed, said JoyLynn Occhiuzzi, the district's executive director of community relations.

"As we looked further into the committee, we realized they were not appointed by the board," Occhiuzzi said.

SHAC members are required to be appointed by the board, she said. SHAC reviews anything health-related for the district, such as physical exercise, food served in schools or sex education, she said. Occhiuzzi said the district does not know at this time how members ended up serving on the council.

"I don't have all of those answers yet," she said. "Unfortunately, when we identified a pretty significant procedural error in the formation of the committee, we looked at the work as a whole, and if there was problem in how it was started, we didn't want there to be any questions on their recommendations."

Despite the board's decision to remove the topic from the agenda, several residents took the opportunity to voice their opinions on the proposed curriculum changes at the Nov. 15 meeting.

"I come tonight because I have an issue," said Cheryl Vernon, a Round Rock resident of 29 years. "Education is the key. Kids learn—why not let them learn the right way?"

Vernon said she has served on many committees within the district in the past.

"If teaching them how to wear a condom is part of this program, then I say so be it. I am all for this program, as long as you let parents opt out."

Recommended changes to the curriculum included adding a lesson on contraception that would include an explanation of the different types of contraceptives, such as condoms, spermicides, intrauterine devices, emergency contraception, vaginal rings, natural family planning, withdrawal method, abstinence, birth control pills, patches and injections.

The current curriculum includes lessons on sexually transmitted diseases, puberty, anatomy, health risk behaviors, developing communication and refusal skills, and healthy relationships. RRISD has received about six emails from parents who did not support the proposed sex education curriculum changes and about four to six emails from parents who did support it, Occhiuzzi said. Some Round Rock district residents also wrote to the district expressing their discontent with the decision to pull the topic from the agenda, she said.

RRISD Superintendent Jess Chvez said no changes to this year's sex education curriculum will be made. Should any changes be made in the future, parents will have the option to opt their children out.

"The main reason is that as we looked at our process, we went back to look at whether we had any records of committee members appointed by the board, and we just did not find that," Chvez said. "That had been called to attention by some external individuals outside of the district, but that had also been noticed here in the district, so because of that we wanted to be sure that we did follow the state law, we did follow the policy."

Occhiuzzi said the existing health council will be dissolved, and information about selecting new members will be available in the coming weeks. A new health council will assess the current curriculum in January or February, and if approved by the board, changes would take place in the 2013–14 school year, she said.

"One of their first tasks will be to review what we have in place," Occhiuzzi said. "The school board will ultimately have the authority to accept or deny [the council's] recommendation."

Criteria for becoming a council member includes living in the community, taking an interest in student health and the ability to attend meetings, which are held four times each year. Council meetings are open to the public.

"The criteria is not so rigid that people don't qualify," she said.

By Lyndsey Taylor
After graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Lyndsey began working as a reporter for the Northwest Austin edition of Community Impact Newspaper in 2012. During her time as a reporter, she has covered Round Rock ISD, health care in the Austin metro area and Austin Community College. She was promoted to editor of the Cedar Park| Leander edition in 2015 and covers city and education news, including Leander ISD.


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