New sex ed standards need more scrutiny, says Flossmoor school board 

Flossmoor School District 161 board members voted to not yet adopt the National Sex Education Standards within its curricula. At their Aug. 8 meeting, board members indicated they want to first review the district’s current procedures and materials related to sex education before moving forward with the standards.

Director of Curriculum and Instruction Amabel Crawford presented to the board at its July 18 meeting an option to adopt the NSES. That move would require the district to introduce new material and modify existing programs as necessary to align with the national standards.

Illinois school districts aren’t required to adopt the national standards. However, if a district does elect to align with the NSES, it must do so completely. Districts that choose not to adopt the standards are instructed by the Illinois State Board of Education to ensure their material doesn’t contradict the standards.

“Should we choose to adopt the program comprehensively, we would continue to teach what we’re teaching but also add on all of the things included in the standards,” Crawford said.

“There are some really important topics that are addressed in the standards, including the topic of consent, and some deeper teaching on gender identity, as well as personal safety.”

Currently, the district teaches topics related to sexual education through junior high health classes and also visits to the educational facility called Candor Health, formerly the Robert Crowne Center. Some other topics included in the standards are currently covered in social studies and science classes, said Superintendent Dana Smith.

The standards focus on personal health and safety education, along with comprehensive sexual education, on an age-appropriate basis, including topics such as:

● Consent and healthy relationships

● Anatomy and physiology

● Puberty and adolescent sexual development

● Gender identity and expression

● Sexual orientation and identity

● Sexual health

● Interpersonal violence

Parents currently have the ability to opt out their children from sexual health lessons, and that option would continue under the new standards. 

At the July 18 meeting, board member Christina Vliestra expressed reservations about making a decision too quickly about the standards. She cautioned the board to be “very careful.”

“Before we agree to these comprehensive standards, we really need to make sure our staff is prepared to have these conversations. This could potentially be difficult for a lot of our youngest learners,” Vliestra said.

“This should sit for quite a while before we figure out what direction we’re going. This is not something I feel comfortable moving forward with.”

While board members are reticent, Smith said students already talk and ask questions about topics covered in the standards, especially gender identity. Adopting the NSES could help teachers get in front of tough questions and provide consistent, responsible answers, he said.

“I don’t know that time is on our side,” Smith said. “The comfort of the adults in the room will have to at some point meet with the needs of the students. We are going to have to make a decision on this. Whether or not the adults are ready to have the conversation, the kids are.”

Board member David Linnear asked about time and resources that would have to be dedicated to teaching the standards. Crawford said that while some topics are already covered, teachers would have to adjust lesson plans to accommodate additional info. The state has provided some materials to help, she said, and should be releasing more over the next several months.

“I’m as uncomfortable now looking at this as I was in fourth grade,” Linnear said. “The difference is now I have to be an adult and have the uncomfortable conversation. I can see the true value in presenting a comprehensive program for our children.”

News by email

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Free weekly newsletter

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
Most read stories this week