The board chose the Longview-based Women’s Center of East Texas to educate seventh graders, and the Esteem program for Grades 8 and 9. The school district’s only expense is $4 each for workbooks to be given 8th and 9th graders.
As required by law, parents can choose to “opt out” their children from the curriculum.
Representatives of the respective programs, Carol Ibarra of the Women’s Center and Tonya Waite of Esteem, explained that their curriculums deal not only with sex, but with such topics as bullying and relationships.
Intermediate School Principal Dr. Bobby Rice, chairman of the School Health Advisory Council which recommended the two organizations, said the council reviewed many programs and “we knew we wanted to have something abstinence-based” because it was believed the community wanted that.
Ms. Ibarra said her program, entitled “Kaleidoscope,” will involve assessing all 7th graders before the curriculum is instituted in the fall semester. Among its goals are decreasing bullying and sexual harassment.
The Primary Prevention Coordinator for the women’s center said 47 percent of high school students have had “intimate relationships,” and that six percent did so before age 13. She said 22 percent of those having such relations used drugs or alcohol when they had sex.
Billions of dollars are spent annually dealing with teen pregnancy and for counseling for victims of bullying, she added. And some students are “depressed when there’s violence in their relationships.”
Ms. Ibarra said Kaleidoscope will aid relationships, even with teachers and peers. “They help (students) make healthy choices about sexuality and dating and everything,” she said.
Mrs. Waite, who with her husband Justin co-founded VOW Family Champions in Longview/Tyler, told the board her Esteem program is aimed partly at getting girls to “focus on algebra instead of ‘What kind of panties do I wear Friday night to go out with Brian?’”
She said Texas has the highest level of any state for teen-agers who become pregnant multiple times.
Esteem discusses pregnancy, the long-term consequences of sexually-transmitted diseases, and the legal age of consent for sexual relations, as well as date rape and drugs used to enable it, Mrs. Waite said. But the program also discusses “healthy friendships,” “boundaries for dating relationships,” and marriage, she said.
Students are given information on phone hotlines and websites related to drug/alcohol use, and are informed where to report sexual abuse and bullying, added Mrs. Waite, who also co-founded the “Virginity Rules” program.
She said her program would also host a Parents’ Night.
After the women’s presentations, school board President Jeff Rash said, “We have complete faith in our committee that has researched this.”
Added board member Ken Southwell, “We ought to eventually look down to the sixth grade.”
The four members of the 7-member board who were present—Rash, Southwell, Diedra Camp and Todd Tefteller—unanimously approved utilizing the outside programs recommended by the committee.