District responds to claims of misinformation in FCS class
By Mary Grace Gorman and Stephen Kridel
The widely circulated Huffington Post article referenced an open letter to Superintendent Dr. Michael Tefs, which made three claims regarding the information students received: “(1) If a girl gets pregnant because of rape or incest, her only option is adoption of the baby. (2) Marriage prevents sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). (3) Students shouldn’t have children until they are married.”
The following day, the WCSD published a press release refuting all three claims.
In addressing the first claim, the district’s release stated, “The speaker never referenced rape or incest and never discussed
emergency contraception measures or adoption.”
A female eighth grader from a second period FCS class stated, “They didn’t tell us that [the first claim]. They did say if you get pregnant as a teenager, a good option is to put the baby up for adoption. They said you could have the baby, but they were talking about how the male always leaves the relationship… and how abortion is an option, but you shouldn’t do it.”
However, a male eighth grade student in the first period FCS class stated, “[The speaker] said that if you get pregnant and have a baby that adoption is the only way.”
A female student said neither adoption nor abortion were discussed in fifth period.
The Wooster Blade chose not to identify eighth graders in order to protect their privacy in discussing a sensitive topic.
In reference to the second claim, the district’s release said, “Marriage is only used as a positive example of a relationship with a decreased risk of contracting STDs.”
Two female eighth graders in a fifth period FCS class said they were assigned a crossword puzzle in which students were directed to read the definitions and fill in the blanks with the corresponding STDs.
They said the class reviewed the crossword puzzle the following day, but no further discussion of STDs took place.
The aforementioned second period student said, “[The speaker] basically just told us that the only way in order to not get an STD is to get married, is to wait to sleep with someone until you get married. They said you can’t get an STD if you do that. They said that was pretty much the only way. They said that even if you use a condom, you can still contract an STD and still get pregnant.”
In addressing the third claim, Principal Tyler Keener said, “I think, in that regard, we are not here to say this is what students need to learn, but we are here to say, ‘Think of these options, and think of these things, and is this the best for you at this point in time?’”
In response to all three of the allegations, Family and Consumer Science Dept. member Brooke Coblentz, the teacher in whose classroom the speaker presented, said, “It is unfortunate. I have had multiple students come up to me and ask me why they were said because they knew it was not true. I am not sure if the student who thought they heard those things being said just got it mixed up; I am not sure. It is unfortunate because it gave a bad rap to the presentation that was being given because it is really, really good for the kids and a majority of the students really enjoy it. ”
The district’s release also stated, “While the presenter was from the Pregnancy Care Center of Wayne County, the approved curriculum used by the presenter came from the Alliance for Healthy Youth in Akron, a non-profit, non-partisan organization. The Alliance receives significant state and federal funding, which prohibits it from including any type of faith-based education.”
The curriculum used is called the Responsible Social Values Program.
According to Tefs, the district has always relied on a speaker from the Pregnancy Care Center to deliver the RSVP curriculum as part of its outreach to area schools.
A press release on the Pregnancy Care Center’s website says, “For many years the PCC has been providing these programs to schools in both Wayne and Holmes Counties.”
Coblentz explained the speaker was intended to supplement other parts of the class’ curriculum.
“It is a support system to what we have already talked about in class. So, we will discuss making good decisions in class, and then we have the presenter come in, and that is what teachers do in their classes. They bring someone from the outside, and they just support the curriculum that we are teaching, and then we discuss it afterwards,” Coblentz said.
The introduction to the RSVP curriculum provided to The Wooster Blade by Director of Secondary Education Rich Leone states, “Using the foundation of positive character traits, the RSVP curriculum directs students toward making healthy decisions and avoiding risky behaviors… students will be educated about the importance of positive character, empowered to take charge of the formative process, and encouraged to make healthy choices regarding their personal development.”
While RSVP encourages abstinence in terms of drugs, tobacco, alcohol and premarital sex, the University of Toledo independent analysis available on the Alliance’s website states, “The fundamental ‘responsible social value’ upon which RSVP is based is premarital sexual abstinence.”
That value is consistent with the Ohio Revised Code’s section 3313.6011 (C)(1), which states venereal disease education should, “Stress that students should abstain from sexual activity until after marriage.”
The RSVP introduction also states, “It is recommended that RSVP be taught in its entirety at each grade level so that the curriculum reinforces student learning in each grade. The lesson plans, designed for five classes in each grade for a total of 15 hours of instruction, teach students how to avoid premarital sexual activity, alcohol and other drug use, and promote healthy relationships.”
However, the WCSD only uses the curriculum for two class periods at the eighth grade level and does not use it at all at the sixth and seventh grade level, according to Leone.
Coblentz explained the Pregnancy Care Center representative chose which parts of the curriculum to teach.
Additionally, Coblentz emphasized that family and consumer science is not intended to replace a health class, but instead, is focused on students’ emotional development and well-being.
“The whole presentation is about healthy choices. It’s over tobacco use, alcohol use, drug use, and then sex, which is important too… So, it’s basically helping the students understand what they are comfortable with before they go into a situation like that… it is in my standards to talk about risky behaviors, and that is why we talk about it. We talk about making good choices in different situations, peer pressures, that is why it kind of aligns with what I discuss. It is not about health, it is not about sex ed, it is just about health choices and risky behaviors and consequences that could follow with those risky behaviors,” Coblentz said.
In an email sent on Nov. 23, Keener stated the FCS state standards addressed by the RSVP include “Advocate a Healthy Lifestyle,” “Manage a Life Plan” and “Manage Personal Transitions.” He wrote that RSVP also addressed the benchmarks, “Identify social and cultural factors that influence healthy lifestyle choices,” “Recognize values and resources that support goals,” “Describe friend and family systems that support and sustain a productive and meaningful life,” “Explore skills to express emotions and resolve differences and conflict in school and family relationships” and “Apply social skills that lead to effective school and family relationships.”
Keener concurred the goals of an FCS class are distinct from those of a health class.
“Health class really talks about… the details of body systems, how do things interact with your body, disease prevention. There are obviously healthy habits that go into health class… [In] Family Consumer Science, there are pieces that do directly relate to good choices and healthy living and, basically, what good choices you can make. [In] health class, you get more of the details of disease and the actual functioning of the body, ” Keener said.
Coblentz elaborated on the division between FCS and health.
“[Contraception] is not in my standards and that was not discussed… It’s not her job to talk about contraceptives because that’s not the point of the presentation. It’s just basically helping them understand that they need to have an idea of what they’re comfortable with going into a situation that might be peer pressure… we didn’t talk about contraceptives. That’s a health thing,” Coblentz said.
According to Health Dept. member Steve Young, comprehensive sexual education is part of WHS’s mandatory online health class, which students take between eighth and twelfth grade.
“We have a unit on reproduction. It goes on everything from puberty to pregnancy stages and everything in between… The health I teach is all comprehensive. It’s not abstinence only. It’s comprehensive. It’s everything. All options are discussed. We do talk about abortion, again, with comprehensive health, that is going to include everything,” Young said.
Young explained Ohio does not have any mandatory health standards, so he uses standards from the federal CDC.
Keener said the school will continue to evaluate its choice of curriculum in the future.
“We will take a look at our curriculum in regards to going forward and seeing, well, is there a place? Do we need to do something different? Do we need to have other speakers in? Like I said, we’re not afraid to change if we need to going forward,” Keener said.
According to the district press release, the WCSD has used the RSVP curriculum for 27 years.