Portions Of TUSD Sex ED “Family Life” Materials Available For Public Review

tusd committee meeting
TUSD Family Life Curriculum Committee members Bernadette Gruber and Adam Ragan during the Family Life Curriculum Public Forum, June 26, 2019.

Some of the Tucson Unified School District’s Sex ED “Family Life” materials for students are now available for public review. The curriculum will not be available until August 1.

The Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) Governing Board is scheduled to vote on adopting the curriculum August 13.

Members of the public had operated under the impression that they would have 60 days to review the curriculum and classroom materials.  Arizona law requires a 60-day public review period for textbooks and some supplemental classroom materials. However, the vaguely written law, 15-721 Common schools; course of study; textbooks; definition, is largely interpreted by school boards, including TUSD’s, to exclude curricula.

“The distinctions between a “text,” “supplemental material,” “curriculum,” etc., are not always clear; that is one problem with the statutes and policies concerning curriculum material,” board member Dr. Mark Stegeman explained. “I think that they may be planning a longer review period for what has been posted, partly because they seem to be materials subject to a required longer review. It is strange however that the district has not released and posted the “curriculum,” which by Open Meeting Law should have been posted within three days of the committee’s vote to approve it. I think this is what they will post on August 1.”

As for the content, Stegeman said he thought “most of it is alright (I do not line up exactly with 4Tucson etc.), but I have several levels of concern with this sentence in the 10th-grade curriculum, which as far as I know is still part of the current version: “An individual’s gender identity (the gender someone identifies as) and outward masculine/feminine gender expressions are socio-cultural constructs based on expectations, stereotypes and archetypes.” I would have thought, for example, that biological sex also influences the gender that someone identifies as. Even if it is “medically accurate,” as they say, it sounds more like sociology than family health and it is unclear whether that kind of material makes sense for a two-week family health curriculum. There are, obviously, vast quantities of “scientifically accurate” information that we do not put in high school science courses, because of time limitations and the complexity of the material.”

Last week, Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo held a press conference to explain the adoption process and attempt to tamp down concerns of parents.

“There needs to be a little bit more focus on the well-rounded nature of this curriculum and the changes that are recommended. It is not a how-to manual, I know that that there have been statements that this curriculum is unduly focused on sexual practices and acts, but I think what the public will see through the majority of this 15-day unit of study a focus on what I had mentioned before,” Trujillo told reporters. Earlier in the press conference, Trujillo stated that the program focuses on” healthy relationships, positive choices, good decision making, anti-bullying strategies, self-awareness, and its inclusion of abstinence.”

At first glance, the materials run from unimpressive to marginally questionable. As with all teaching materials, those currently available for review provide no real indication of what and how the material will actually be conveyed in classrooms:

6th Grade -Staying Safe Practice Scenarios

1. Your Mom works late Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings so your uncle comes over so you won’t be alone. Lately he’s invited his girlfriend over to hang out. Lately, before you go to bed, they’ve begun smoking weed. They keep offering it to you, saying that it really won’t hurt you. Sometimes you have an allergy attack. You’re usually in bed when your Mom gets home and she doesn’t seem to notice what they’re doing.

A. Write a dialog where you refuse your uncle’s offer to smoke weed.

B. Write a dialog for telling your Mom what’s happening.

3. You’re invited to a Saturday night birthday party for your friend’s older sister (She’s in high school and is really nice to you, giving you rides home all the time.) When you get to the party, it seems like everyone’s drinking alcohol and swimming and dancing. It’s pretty cool, but you don’t drink.

A. Consider your options. What are some of your choices? Should you stay or should you leave?

B. Write a dialog that explains your decision and makes clear what action you will take.

TUSD “Family Life Curriculum” Student Material

4th Grade:

5th Grade:

6th Grade:

7th Grade:

High School:

When asked about how LGBT related topics will be taught, Trujillo said that was up to the Board. For his part, Trujillo said he hoped the Board would vote on an inclusive curriculum.

The District has not updated the curriculum since the 1990s.

Community activist, Chris King, has been engaged as a watchdog of sorts, and is encouraging the public to withhold judgment until they review the materials. “Since less than a dozen people in all of Pima County have seen the final product of the Family Life Curriculum, I suggest waiting before becoming enraged. Take a step back, wait for the public release and stop buying into the hype,” advised King. “Once it’s released, read it for yourself and then make a decision. Stop listening to the opinions of those who are just as ignorant. I’ve read some of the curriculum since I attended some of the meetings and I can say that I’m still waiting for the rest of it before I make a final decision. Lastly, if TUSD wants to stop the hair on fire mentality that permeates the district it has a few choices. One, don’t teach sex education. Two, make it mandatory for parents to attend after school hours with their child. Three, do not provide direct instruction to the children and put the curriculum in the hands of the parents and make them responsible for teaching their children as has been done for millennia.”

Former Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas doesn’t share King’s confidence. “I stand by my original comments – there is no such thing as safe sex for kids. For our governing boards, district administrators and teachers to pretend otherwise through the adoption of Sex Education under the guise of “Family Life” education hurts our kids – as evidenced by the by the increase in suicide, sexually transmitted diseases, drug/alcohol abuse, self-mutilation, sexually induced, emotional distress of all kinds among our teens since the advent of Comprehensive Sex Education.”

“AZ State Board of Education rule R-7-2-303 very specifically requires that in “common schools” (grades K-8) sex education only be provided “at the written request of the student’s parent or guardian.” It is very disappointing to see that TUSD intends “opt-out” rather than “opt-in.” In my experience “opt-out” programs throw the door wide open because the parents rarely, if ever, see the permission slip in advance but no permission slip is implied consent on the part of the parent,” continued Douglas. “Nothing could be further from the truth in many cases. Anything other than “opt-in” at every grade level is inappropriate – at best.”

“I think a very important that parents demand to see the actual curriculum and exactly what textbooks and all the materials which will be used at every grade level to direct the teachers’ instruction,” urged Douglas. “What I see so far is nothing more than a handful of worksheets that the district is presenting as “curriculum.”

“I can’t help but wonder when Superintendent Trujillo refers to a “15-day unit of study” is he referring to 15 days across the five grades levels this instruction is to be offered. If not, and he means 15 days at each grade level parents better be asking what else is going to be included?” Douglas concluded, “Because what I see so far is not much more than a few days of worksheets for each grade level.”

From related article: Controversial book pulled from Buena High classes updated

Curriculum is supposed to be a carefully constructed program or blueprint of learning that builds a plan for effective teaching and learning from the expectations set in the academic standards. A comprehensive curriculum must be approved and adopted at the local level as stated in A.R.S. 15-721 and 15-722 and includes:

• a complete scope and sequence that defines the breadth and depth of the content that will be studied
• a pacing guide that maps the intended content across the time identified for learning
• guidance on effective instructional strategies that support learning
• identification of approved and adopted instructional materials and resources
• an assessment plan that clearly articulates how student learning will be measured and the expectations for student performance that will demonstrate mastery of the content

The responsibility and authority to develop a local curriculum resides with the local education agency and the local school board.

15-721Common schools; course of study; textbooks; definition

A. The governing board shall approve for common schools the course of study, the basic textbook for each course and all units recommended for credit under each general subject title prior to implementation of the course.

B. If any course does not include a basic textbook, the governing board shall approve all supplemental books used in the course prior to approval of the course.

C. If any course includes a basic textbook and uses supplemental books, the governing board may approve all supplemental books and teaching aids, including instructional computer software, that are used in the course prior to approval of the course.

F. The governing board shall:

2. Require that all meetings of committees authorized for the purposes of textbook review and selection be open to the public as prescribed in title 38, chapter 3, article 3.1.

3. Make available at the school district office for review by the public, for a period of sixty days prior to formal selection of textbooks, a copy of each textbook that is being considered for selection.

G. For the purposes of this section, “textbook” means printed instructional materials or digital content, or both, and related printed or nonprinted instructional materials, that are written and published primarily for use in school instruction and that are required by a state educational agency or a local educational agency for use by pupils in the classroom, including materials that require the availability of electronic equipment in order to be used as a learning resource.