PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles School District has adopted a new HIV and sexual education curriculum, replacing the old curriculum, which is more than 15 years old.
The school district was required to update its curriculum to match state standards, said Assistant Superintendent Chuck Lisk.
The district piloted the Family Life and Sexual Health (FLASH) curriculum at Port Angeles High School last year and plans to implement it fully throughout the district this winter and spring.
“It’s fully in place at the high school level,” Lisk said, adding that middle and elementary schools will implement it this winter or spring.
FLASH was designed to prepare students to navigate puberty, abstain from sex, use condoms and birth control when they do have sex, and confirm consent before having sex, according to the King County website. The curriculum was developed by Public Health Seattle-King County, according to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI)
The Port Angeles School District had been using KNOW, an OSPI-developed HIV/STD prevention instruction.
However, the high school version of KNOW needs significant revisions before meeting state medical accuracy requirements, and OSPI is recommending school districts use HIV prevention lessons from FLASH.
FLASH was adopted during a Port Angeles School District board meeting Nov. 3 in a 4-t0-1 vote. Board member Susan Shotthafer voted against the new program.
Shotthafer said she takes issue with the curriculum’s effort to do away with gender stereotypes and that students should be encouraged to be responsible and use self-control and self-discipline.
FLASH teaches students to do away with the idea of men being strong, she said.
“I don’t think we want to encourage weakness,” she said. “I don’t think that’s good for our young men and women.”
Shotthafer said she was disappointed to learn the state doesn’t allow abstinence-based sexual education but said the district could have adopted a different curriculum.
FLASH has the potential to encourage dependency on condoms and drugs instead of self-discipline, she said.
She felt the board was rushed in making a decision, adding that the board had only two weeks to review the curriculum before voting on the issue.
“We could have done better,” she said.
Board member Sarah Methner declined to comment because the board has a policy of having its president speak for the board.
Board President Joshua Jones was unable to be reached Monday and Tuesday.
Lisk said some parents had concerns about FLASH’s approach to relationships and its discussion of gay relationships.
“Parents had concerns about the gender piece,” he said.
Those discussions are intended to happen at the high school level, where it is more age-appropriate, he said.
Others were concerned that sexual education shouldn’t be in schools in the first place, he said.
Parents have the option to opt their children out of the new curriculum, Lisk said.
“Parents are allowed to look through the curriculum,” he said. “Once they’ve done that, they can ask to have their students not participate.”
He said it’s not unusual for two to five parents to prevent their children from participating each year.
More about the FLASH program can be found at www.etr.org/flash.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.