BENTON — Fairfield Community Schools will be taking extra steps to make sure parents are aware of what is being taught in health classes regarding sex.
Superintendent Steve Thalheimer addressed a standing room-only crowd Thursday after social media posts about the APEX curriculum went viral. Posts accused the corporation of promoting immoral sex acts and hiding the details of the class assignments from parents.
The students in the APEX class work at their own pace through a computer module, and have a workbook to complete. On one page, students were asked to define anal, oral and vaginal sex. The following page covered sexually transmitted diseases. The reason the workbook asks for those definitions, followed by possible consequences, was based on a study that showed teenagers were choosing oral or anal sex over vaginal to avoid STDs, Thalheimer said.
Another page made reference to the options available to a teen facing an unwanted pregnancy: keeping the baby, adoption or abortion.
“They are just stating what the options are,” Thalheimer said. “The next page says ‘None of those options is easy.’”
One parent, Kathryn Miller, addressed the board and said she and other parents were asking that the curriculum be removed from the school.
The APEX workbooks are the same ones the school has used for four years, and the curriculum is changing starting this summer. The definitions of sex and reference to abortion have both been removed by APEX in the new units, Thalheimer said.
Thalheimer refuted the accusation that the school was keeping the contents of the workbooks from parents. The students are not told they can’t bring the workbooks home during the semester. The workbooks are kept once the semester is over and destroyed to prevent cheating, he said.
Miller told the board she asked to see her son’s workbook, and was allowed to, but told Thalheimer that other parents who asked after she did were denied access.
“That has been addressed,” Thalheimer told Miller.
Any parent who wishes to see the workbook can do so on school grounds. If parents have more questions, Thalheimer said he would make time to answer them, and the APEX teacher is willing to make a preview of the online module available.
Students have to return a consent form before the section on sex can be unlocked by the teacher, Thalheimer said.
Miller said that she never signed a consent form.
“Through this process we have learned that we could give parents more information on the curriculum,” Thalheimer said.
The consent form that will go home for APEX will now include more detail on the topics covered, including a detailed syllabus on the sex unit for parents to review. Thalheimer said they will make sure that students understand the workbooks can go home.
Thalheimer was visibly shaken when he addressed the board and the audience about the phone calls the corporation has received, accusing him and others of being immoral and sodomites.
“The names I have been called and my building principal have been called are grossly unfair,” he said.
He said that not every student has engaged parents like those sitting in the board room, and if the school did not address sex in some way, those kids would not get the knowledge at all.
“We operate in partnership with parents,” Thalheimer said.
After the meeting, Miller reacted to the changes being made.
“I’m glad they’re on the right road,” she said.