A policy revision approved by the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board has created the possibility of a more comprehensive sex education curriculum. But members of the school's LGBTQ community are being left out of the discussions as the district is attempting to abide by a law that is opposed to the values of inclusivity that TUSD has attempted to embrace.
The call is for a curriculum that teaches medically accurate, age-appropriate information concerning reproduction, anatomy, and related biological issues. State law requires that abstinence is encouraged, but it will not be the only form of birth control discussed.
In spite of the fact that the curriculum is not yet written, University High School (UHS) students say that more detailed sex ed is needed, particularly in Tucson's largest district.
"The lack of a comprehensive sexual education in our district is disproportionately affecting undocumented students, students of color, poor students, students living on their own, LGBTQ students and women and girls on our campuses," said junior Deja Foxx of UHS.
Regardless of race or gender identity, every student should receive the same chance to a quality education, Foxx continued. This policy shows that the district is "standing in solidarity with its students."
Arizona law does not allow teachings that include homosexuality, which has caused the TUSD to eliminate the inclusion of LGBTQ students, which Kristel Foster, board clerk, said was "a shame" and "a sad statement."
Alex Ross, a junior at the University of Arizona, has worked with TUSD students to persuade the Governing Board to help fight against this discrimination. He adds that as a member of the LGBTQ community, he hopes supporters continue to make noise to support LGBTQ students, according to Alexis Huicochea of the Arizona Daily Star.
The new sex education program will include elements on birth control, STDs, HIV, bullying, dating violence, and consent. Parents will be given the opportunity to permit their children to participate in the program or opt out. Input will be sought from various constituencies and the Arizona Department of Education will review the finished product.
TUSD Governing Board President Adelita Grijalva said she agreed with the students to whom she has been listening. Grijalva believes the abstinence-only approach needs to be replaced with comprehensive sex education, writes Lauren Gilger for KJZZ Public Radio.
"They're sitting there saying, âAll I want is for students to have the information that I have, that I didn't have before, that I had to look up,'" she said. "I would rather have our students be able to talk to a real person as opposed to looking it up on Google."
Grijalva said changes will not be made before the new school year begins in the fall.
Six months ago, a youth advocacy group approached the board asking for more depth in the sex ed program. The board then reviewed the Family Life Education curriculum offered to TUSD students in fourth and fifth grades and which includes some sex topics.
The board, according to Maria Hechanova of KOLD-TV, will be holding meetings and inviting focus groups so that the public can share their opinions and to ensure that parents are comfortable with the curriculum.