Following state orders, changes are coming to the way Mesa Public Schools teach children about sex.
In April, Gov. Doug Ducey, following direction from the Legislature, issued an executive order titled “Ensuring Parents’ Rights Are Protected.”
It requires school districts that provide sex education to “establish procedures to notify parents and give the parents the ability to withdraw from any such instruction.”
The order demands two public hearings within 60 days for parents to learn about districts’ policies and provide any comment.
The MPS Governing Board held the first of two public hearings on sex education during its regularly-scheduled meeting Nov. 8. The next hearing on the topic will be at the board’s Nov. 22 meeting.
Like Arizona House Bill 2035 (passed by both the House and Senate), Ducey’s order did not specify what can be taught regarding sex.
In Mesa, sex education goes by the code name “Project MESA”– an acronym that stands for Mesa’s Education in Sexual Awareness.
According to a presentation to the MPS Governing Board, “Project MESA is an opt-in sexual awareness program taught to students in seventh- and ninth-grade by one district female teacher and one district male teacher.”
The guidelines were developed by “community members appointed by governing board members and district staff.” The community members were Dr. Randy Richardson, Tiffini Montague, Jessica Luna, Dr. Mark Olsen, Jaime Glasser, Kara Pothier, Ann Lumm, Louisa Porter and Rosemary McMasters.
The 15-member (including six MPS staff) committee’s proposed changes include updated videos, updated data on bullying, updated data on sexually transmitted infections and “updated vocabulary that is not taught but can be defined (not discussed).”
Currently, MPS has strict guidelines on what can be taught and discussed in its schools:
“The terms abortion, birth control (contraceptives), homosexuality and masturbation may be defined but not discussed. Students will be instructed to ask their parents for more information.”
The committee’s only change here is to replace the word “homosexuality” with “gay/lesbian.”
The board previously approved the following videos for seventh graders:
• “Dangers of Sexting”
• “Flirting or Hurting”
• “The New Me: About Girls”
• “The New Me: About Boys”
• “Human Reproduction and Childbirth:
• “Human Reproduction and Childbirth:
• “Surviving Peer Pressure”
• “The 5 Essential Habits of Healthy Teens”
The committee recommends adding a half-dozen videos for seventh graders, including “Make Good Choices: Keys to Good Decisions” and “Talk It Out: Sex, Self-Respect, and Social Media.”
Videos currently being shown to ninth graders include:
• “Dealing with Dating Abuse”
• “Human Reproduction and Childbirth: Part 1”
• “Human Reproduction and Childbirth: Part 2”
• “AIDS Update”
• “Avoiding the Teen Pregnancy Trap”
• “10 Signs of Relationship Abuse Part 1”
• “10 Signs of Relationship Abuse Part 2”
• “Sex and the Consequences Part 1”
• “Sex and the Consequences Part 2”
• PSA: Sexting Education”
• “Sex Smarts for Teens: STIs”
• “Sex Smarts for Teens: Abstinence”
The committee recommends several new ninth-grade videos, including “Coping with Dating Violence and Abuse” and “Straight Talk about Sexual Harassment.”
According to MPS, public comment on sex education ends Jan. 9, with the board scheduled to vote on the changes two days later.
For more information, including curriculum and videos, visit mpsaz.org/ssrc/projectmesa.
The MPS presentation notes it follows Arizona Board of Education has requirements for sex education, which includes:
“All sex education materials and instruction which discuss sexual intercourse shall: Stress that pupils should abstain from sexual intercourse until they are mature adults; emphasize that abstinence from sexual intercourse is the only method for avoiding pregnancy that is 100 percent effective; stress that sexually transmitted diseases have severe consequences and constitute a serious and widespread public health problem; include a discussion of the possible emotional and psychological consequences of preadolescent and adolescent sexual intercourse and the consequences of preadolescent and adolescent pregnancy.”
The state Department of Education requirement that public school sex education “Promote honor and respect for monogamous heterosexual marriage” was recently deleted.