Responsible sex education for children in the school district of University City was the topic of discussion at Thursday's school board work session.
The school board reviewed a revised board policy put before them by Superintendent JoyLynn Pruitt. The revisions came after questions arose about a policy before the board months earlier.
"We wanted to make sure we complied with federal mandates and guidelines, as well as state mandates and guidelines," Pruitt told the board.
The board policy was reviewed by MSBA (the Missouri School Board Association) and the district's legal council.
Pruitt said MSBA advised the board to tread lightly when making changes to the policy as much of the wording was dictated by Missouri statutes.
The School District of University City uses a program called "Abstinence by Choice" in elementary and middle schools and teaches basic sex education in high school health classes.
Board member Ellen Bern questioned whether the district's curriculum went far enough in educating students.
"I think we need to be talking about comprehensive sex education," she said. "That's what we used to teach."
The health class at the discusses STDs and talks to students about dating issues and relationships. It does not discuss contraceptive devices or abortion.
The district's nurse told the board that giving more detailed information would involve parental permission and the course would need to be taught by a qualified health practictioner. That includes any demonstration of correct contraceptive use.
School officials noted that the district could create a more detailed curriculum for sex education.
"The law offers an opt-out," Pruitt said. "There are various beliefs that don't want the school districts talking about contraceptives and abortion."
In that scenerio, parents would be allowed to choose whether their student participated in sex education.
Board President Stacy Clay asked the board to consider whether the policy, in its current wording, gave the district latitude to change the curriculum to fit its needs.
"We need to have a policy that gives this board and future boards of education the ability to meet the needs of the community and adjust," Clay said.
The school district uses a survey each year to ask students at the high school level about sexual activity, pregnancies and other information. Along with asking students to self-report in the survey, the district also tracks information.
The district is now home to the Good Shepherd program which houses pregnant teens. The teenagers stay in the program until they give birth, at which time many of them return to their home school district.
One of those pregnant girls was middle school aged, which prompted discussion as to whether more information needed to be made available to the younger grades.
Board members agreed that students should be armed with as much information as possible, especially regarding the long-term health risks of STDs.
The board asked for examples of what other districts are using for sex education curriculum before it voted on the policy. The administration will bring the policy back before the board at a later date.