Health class speakers' message criticized
Some parents of Perham High School ninth graders are unhappy with a sexual education lesson their kids got in a recent health class. At the Perham-Dent School Board's regular meeting Monday, several parents shared their concerns. "Things were sai...
Some parents of Perham High School ninth graders are unhappy with a sexual education lesson their kids got in a recent health class.
At the Perham-Dent School Board's regular meeting Monday, several parents shared their concerns.
"Things were said that should not have been said," said one upset mother. "This stepped way over the line."
In question was a 75-minute presentation given by guest speakers from a local family planning office.
Based on what their kids told them of the presentation, parents' main concern was that it was not "abstinence-based," as a letter that went home to parents claimed it would be.
While specifics of the presentation were not divulged, parents said their kids came home reporting the use of "inappropriate" language and pictures, and only a brief discussion on abstinence.
When students asked to be excused from the presentation, parents said, they were unable to receive a pass to do so, as the teacher had left the room. This was another cause of alarm for parents, who requested constant teacher supervision during all future presentations of this nature.
Parents said the school should have handled the "sensitive" situation better, and asked for improved communications with families in the future. They also requested that a new speaker be invited to the class to talk to students about abstinence - both their own kids and future classes.
Superintendent Mitch Anderson said the presentation was in line with ninth grade national health standards and the district's curriculum.
He said this was the second year that family planning professionals have come into the school to speak to students in the classroom. Before that, Anderson said, the district would send the kids on a field trip to Fergus Falls to attend a health fair, which included a family planning booth; budget cuts put an end to that practice.
However, Anderson admitted that "there was a lack of professionalism, to some degree," in the presentation. He said he's looking for another professional speaker to come in and talk to the kids before the trimester is up, and asked parents for suggestions on this.
Administrators are also looking into the possibility of getting an alternate, or additional, speaker for future classes.
In the future, Anderson said, the school will also "make better" on its communication with parents. From now on parents can "opt in" rather than "opt out" their kids from the presentation, and they will receive notification letters in the mail (or through email) rather than the letters being sent home with students.
"This is one of those things that will never make everybody happy," said one woman at the meeting. "I just hope parents took this opportunity to have an honest discussion with their kids, rather than just attacking the presenters."
In other business, the school board:
- Heard a report from Superintendent Mitch Anderson regarding the Nov. 8 levy referendum election.
The district failed to pass a referendum for its fourth year in a row. Anderson said the school board will need to hold a special meeting in December to start looking at potential budget cuts, and to discuss its revenue options for the future (such as trying for another levy).
"I think our staff did a tremendous job of... taking advantage of a teachable moment," after the referendum results were in, he said. "There was no animosity from staff or students."
Perham-Dent was one of just 24 school districts in Minnesota that did not pass an operating levy referendum this year, with 90 of 114 such measures passing.
- Heard a report by music teacher Kevin Kosiak, who plans to take students on a field trip to New York City in 2013, where they will take part in a performance at Carnegie Hall. The field trip en-tails no cost to the district.
- Heard an enrollment report from Business Manager Kristi Werner, who said total district enrollment is up to 1,360 students.
"This year we seem to be holding onto our students," she said. "So that's good news."