WICKER PARK — As part of Chicago Public Schools plan to have a new sex education policy in place by 2016, students in kindergarten will be learning about their bodies along with the ABCs.
LaSalle II Magnet Elementary School in Wicker Park is "currently in the first stages" of implementing the policy, which will provide age-appropriate instruction for each grade level, principal Lauren Albani told parents at a Local School Council meeting on Tuesday.
The systemwide curriculum will include instruction about gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.
Students in kindergarten through fourth grade will focus on anatomy, reproduction, healthy relationships and personal safety. CPS said that "younger students in this group will focus on the family, feelings and appropriate and inappropriate touching."
Students in fourth grade will learn about puberty and the causes and transmission of AIDS infection.
Students in grades five through 12 will learn about human reproduction, transmission and prevention of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. They'll also learn about contraception and abstinence.
The policy requires CPS principals to designate a minimum of two instructors to deliver the sex ed instruction at his/her school or "retain the services of an approved outside consultant" to provide lessons.
Students in kindergarten through fourth grade are required to receive a minimum of 300 minutes of sex ed per school year, while students in grades five through 12 are to receive 675 minutes.
Currently, the only sex education that students at the Wicker Park school receive is in the fifth grade.
In November, the LaSalle fifth-graders are scheduled to go on a field trip to the Robert Crown Center for Health Education in Hinsdale, where they'll receive an 85-minute introduction to puberty session. The center says it has hosted some 5 million Chicago and suburban students since opening in 1958.
The new policy aligns the district with President Barack Obama's national HIV/AIDS strategy, CPS said.
In announcing the plan in February, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said, "It is important that we provide students of all ages with accurate and appropriate information so they can make healthy choices in regard to their social interactions, behaviors and relationships."
CPS said studies have shown using "comprehensive education" like the CPS plan helps reduce incidents of sexual misconduct, harassment, sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancies.
The expanded CPS sex-ed regulations include an “opt-out” provision for parents who do not wish their children to participate.
Teayonia White, a Hyde Park resident who transferred her two children ages 10 and 8 (in grades five and three) to LaSalle at the start of the year, told a reporter at the meeting she plans to opt out.
White, the only parent at the meeting who wasn't a member of the LSC, said her experience at LaSalle "has been a good experience," but she is "not on board with CPS introducing sex education, especially at that young age."
White's two children previously attended Shoesmith Elementary School in Hyde Park and received sex education there last year, but she opted them out after her then fourth-grade daughter called the lessons "disgusting and creepy."
"Even now that they are older, I will still opt them out. My husband and I, we as parents, are our children's first teachers, and we should be the ones to teach this, or doctors which we take our children to. CPS' focus should be on infrastructure, better textbooks, better technology," White said.
White said before she opted her children out at sex education at Shoesmith, she spoke with the principal, who told her the new classes were driven by reports of more children diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections at a third-grade level than 10 years ago.
"I did not agree [with the principal]," so she and some other parents opted out, she said.
White described herself as "an involved parent" and said she attended the LSC meeting Tuesday, as well as the previous month's meeting, because, "I am curious to know more about what's going on at my school."
In other news:
• LaSalle is now considered by CPS to be a Level 1 (excellent standing) school, which is a boost from its Level 2 (good standing) ranking last year. Albani, who previously was at the helm of the now-shuttered Lafayette School, said improved test scores were part of the reason for the better ranking.
Seventy-one percent of LaSalle's students met or exceeded goals on a standardized test taken at the start of this year, which was an 11 percent jump over last year, where 64 percent of students met or exceeded goals.
LaSalle has 528 students and is underenrolled by only six students, Albani said, through she added a snafu with some pre-k and special educaion students being "counted twice" in the per student budgeting would have caused the school to lose $104,000 this year.
CPS said last month it will not make principals accountable for per-student budgeting until next year.
• LaSalle II is having an open house for prospective families from 10 to 11 a.m. on Oct. 19. The LSC meets from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of every month at the school, 1148 N. Honore St.