Curriculum, media and ODE standards
n the original Nov. 9 Huffington Post article, it was evident to The Wooster Blade Editorial Board that the newspaper did not uphold basic principles of journalistic integrity in the reporting of the incident. The original article was based solely on allegations, and the writer failed to include more than two sources of information, one of which was the then-anonymous accuser of the WCSD through the American Atheists Legal Center. The writer gave the WCSD mere hours to respond before publishing the accusations, and other publications, such as Seventeen and Teen Vogue, quickly picked up the minimally-sourced story.
The Wooster Blade Editorial Board is disappointed in the reporter’s practices; however, the board also believes that the WCSD could have better handled their response to the article.
In a Nov. 11 article from The Daily Record, WHS Principal Tyler Keener described the parent who lodged the complaint with the American Atheists’ group as “disgruntled.” The Daily Record went on to publish two different articles on Nov. 16th which enumerated the history between the parent who lodged the complaints and the school district.
The Wooster Blade Editorial Board finds the approach the WCSD used to respond to the allegations troubling.
In the press release, Superintendent Dr. Michael Tefs stated, “We can speak with absolute certainty when we say these claims made by the American Atheists were not only false, but ridiculous.”
While the claims were proven false, the board believes the use of defensive diction like “disgruntled” and “ridiculous” was unnecessary and minimized parent concerns.
Furthermore, with the media distracting the public with the stories of the accuser’s past behavior toward the district, attention has been taken away from the larger issue at hand.
The Wooster Blade Editorial Board believes the way the WCSD and Ohio approach sexual education is flawed for several reasons.
First, the board is resolute in its belief that students should be treated as serious young adults when it comes to sex education. When reviewing a copy of the entire Responsible Social Values Program (RSVP) curriculum obtained on Dec. 1, the The Wooster Blade Editorial Board was startled to see the juvenile approach utilized by the Alliance to address a mature topic.
Over-the-top demonstrations and activities including, “The Case for Abbey Stinence,” “The Basket of Consequences,” “The Egg of Abstinence,” an STD card game with an abstinence “trump card,” “The Flames of Passion” and “Freddy the Frog” belittle 12- to 15-year-olds and are not in the spirit of having a serious discussion. Demonstrations including an explosion of vinegar and baking soda and setting numerous objects on fire are excessive and serve only as scare tactics. Instead of fear and shame, options should be laid out for students in a factual and balanced manner.
While Wooster High School does not utilize all 15 days of the curriculum, the RSVP curriculum is subsidized by the Ohio government. The Wooster Blade Editorial Board believes the Ohio government should halt its subsidies of such programs.
In fact, the The Wooster Blade Editorial Board was horrified to discover that Ohio is one of only two states to have no health education standards, according to Health Dept. member Steve Young. It is disgraceful that Ohio does not mandate that its students receive proper health education.
Moreover, the Ohio Revised Code does mandate abstinence education. That Ohio mandates that a value be taught, while it does not mandate any objective health education is a disgrace to Ohio and a disservice to Ohio public school students.
Yet, proper sex education is crucial. According to the Guttmacher Institute’s 2012 “Facts on American Teens’ Sources of Information About Sex,” 86 percent of the decline in teen pregnancies between 1995 and 2002 can be attributed to greater contraceptive use, yet, “Among teens aged 18–19, 41 percent report that they know little or nothing about condoms and 75 percent say they know little or nothing about the contraceptive pill.”
In addition, greater emphasis on STD prevention in ways other than abstinence would be in the spirit of minimizing “risky behavior,” as the Guttmacher Institute continued to note that American teenagers have significantly higher rates of STD contraction than their Canadian and Western European peers.
The Wooster Blade Editorial Board believes abstinence only education is not practical. The National Survey of Family Growth 1982-2002 found that 95 percent of respondents have had premarital sex, and 75 percent did so before age 20. The abstinence mandate comes from the state level, so change too must stem from the state level.
The Wooster Blade Editorial Board implores Ohio to reevaluate its standards and put students first by mandating fact-based curriculum in terms of sexual health.