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Wauwatosa sex ed curriculum approved in 6-1 vote

These changes will go into effect for the upcoming 2022-2023 school year
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Posted at 6:23 AM, Aug 22, 2022

WAUWATOSA, Wis. — After over three hours of discussion, the Wauwatosa School Board voted to approve a new sex orientation curriculum.

The school board was still discussing an updated Human Growth and Development (HGD) Curriculum for the 2022-23 school year late Monday evening. HGD is also known sex ed.

Updates include education about sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as resources surrounding dating and sexual violence.

Superintendent Demond Means said the updated curriculum is based on the National Sex Education Standards. Means also said the curriculum was developed using the Wisconsin Youth Risk Behavior Survey

"What we recognized through the survey results for our students in Wauwatosa is that there is a high number of students who are reporting dating violence and sexual violence that they're dealing with. And another component of things, we have a number of our students who are identifying themselves from a different perspective with their sexual orientation," Means said. "We are flexing our curriculum to make sure we are supporting students in those areas."

demond means
Wauwatosa Superintendent Demond Means

However, the topic surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity has caused controversy within the Wauwatosa community, drawing hundreds to the school board meeting on Monday night. During the meeting, some families raised concerns, while others said the changes were long over due.

Henry Dizard, a Wauwatosa East senior, was out before the meeting showing support for the proposed curriculum with many other students, parents, and community members.

"I feel like it gives an opportunity LGBTQ students like myself and some of my peers, who are with me here today, to really have resources available to them, to be as safe and healthy as possible. I think every student has the right to that education," Dizard said.

Henry Dizard
Wauwatosa senior Henry Dizard (they/he)

Dizard said they feel like there's been a gap in their education without material focusing on gender identity and sexual orientation.

"For me that has meant having to find these resources for myself, having to turn to the internet or talking with friends or finding potentially not-trustworthy sources for human growth and development topics which can be harmful to many LGBTQ children, teens, and even adults," Dizard said.

Because Dizard is a senior, they won't experience the changes to the curriculum if it's approved, but they are excited about what the change means for future students.

"So kids know their identity is not something that is wrong so that they know they are a real person that exists and has a place in this world. And also that they know the resources that are available to them for any type of health need they have," Dizard said.

Wauwatosa East High School teacher Jon Etter also said he believes the proposed curriculum update is important.

"I think it's needed because we have children who are gay, children who are bisexual, children who are transgender. They're here and they need to be recognized, they need the love and support," Etter said.

Watch TMJ4's morning report below:

Wauwatosa School Board votes to approve new sex orientation curriculum

Etter is also the parent of two Wauwatosa School District students and is the adviser for the gender and sexuality alliance at Wauwatosa East. He also spoke about the need of adding a curriculum on dating violence.

"I think it's necessary for kids to be able to identify that they are in an unhealthy relationship, that they are victims of sexual assault," Etter said.

Etter's wife Nikki said the curriculum changes are long overdue.

But not everyone is on the same page when it comes to the sexual orientation and gender identity curriculum.

Former school board member Mary Jo Randall raised concerns about the process of how the curriculum was created. She also expressed concerns about what she called a lack of parent involvement and that some of the material may not be age appropriate.

Wauwatosa resident William Barthel has had 13 grandchildren go through the district. He said he fears time will be taken away from other subjects.

"The gender identification and the amount of time that's spent on it compared to the other important things that they should be covering during a school year... that is just one item and there are several hundred others that I believe are not consistent with our community values," Barthel said.

William Barthel
William Barthel

A school board presentation shows that one percent or less of instructional time at each grade level is dedicated to HGD curriculum.

A look at the proposed curriculum by grade level is available on the school district's website. Parents and community members were also sent a letter earlier this month that breaks down the new lesson plans.

The curriculum spans from kindergarten to high school. Beginning in kindergarten, students will learn about gender identity, including using the medical terms for body parts and consent.

Lessons increase in middle school including conversations about sexual orientation and different forms of gender expression. In high school, students have lessons that address safe sex practices and how to identify abuse in relationships.

board meeting
Aug 22 board meeting

The school district does say that parents have an opt-out option. However, Superintendent Means hopes that parents will have a conversation with their kid's teachers and administrators before completely opting out.

The school board's calender and livestream for meetings are posted on their website.

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