Fifth-Grade Sex Ed Plan Horrifies Chicago Parents Who Say It's Obscene

By Stephanie Lulay | November 14, 2014 9:50am | Updated on November 14, 2014 4:48pm
 Some parents say a proposed sex ed curriculum is too racy and not age appropriate.
Controversial Sex Ed Program
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NEAR WEST SIDE — Parents at a Near West Side school say they are "shocked" and "horrified" after viewing a new sex education curriculum intended for fifth-graders, saying the way the information is presented is over the top and not age-appropriate.

During report card pickup Wednesday at Andrew Jackson Language Academy, the school hosted several parent workshops, including an afternoon meeting on Chicago Public Schools' newest sex ed curriculum.

At one point, parents could view materials intended for students. A binder labeled as the curriculum for students in fifth grade touted the benefits of female condoms for extending sex and increasing pleasure and encouraged using lubrication.

 Parents at Andrew Jackson Language Academy say a new sex ed curriculum is too racy for fifth-graders.
Parents at Andrew Jackson Language Academy say a new sex ed curriculum is too racy for fifth-graders.
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The chairwoman of the Local School Council, Angela Bryant, called the way the information was to be presented to students "appalling" and not age-appropriate.

Bryant said she is in favor of health education that explains sex in an informative way, but said that the CPS handouts were composed "in a manner that actually is piquing curiosity about sexual pleasure."

In a statement Friday afternoon, CPS officials said that the objectional material presented at Jackson was a mistake.

"It is not and never was part of the student sexual education curriculum," CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey wrote. "It was mistakenly downloaded and included in the parent presentation, and we agree with parents it is not appropriate for elementary school students."

But a slideshow posted on another school's website, the Waters Elementary School, includes all five of the objectionable slides in a Powerpoint presentation. According to the school's website, the slideshows contain lessons and handouts presented to students in April 2014.

Waters opted out of teaching contraception at the school in fifth grade, and the materials were presented to sixth grade classes, according to the school's website.

Dr. Stephanie Whyte, chief officer of student health and wellness at CPS, plans to schedule a meeting with Jackson's staff to review the curriculum by grade. A community meeting will also be planned, McCaffrey said.

Under the new sex ed guidelines, 5th grade students are typically taught about contraception, McCaffrey confirmed. The discussion includes use of female condoms, he said.

Officials have said parents can opt their children out of school sex-ed classes by providing written notice to a school.

Parents were notified of Wednesday's presentation in a letter from school principal Mathew Ditto. The letter said a CPS representative would be at the meeting where "we will share the lessons and information that will be taught to your child." CPS has said some of the lessons are even intended for children in kindergarten.

The letter said the topics included personal safety, human reproduction and childbirth, puberty, abstinence and healthy relationships. Fourth-graders and above would also learn information about HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections. 

Students in fifth grade and above would also learn about contraception and pregnancy prevention, and lessons would include a condom demonstration, the letter stated. 

Bryant, the local school council chairwoman, was one of just 20 parents who attended the meeting. She said lesson plans were presented in a binder while the CPS representative spoke about the curriculum, which the school plans to implement starting in January. Each curriculum binder was labeled by grade level, she said. 

But some of the information disturbed parents at the meeting, leading one to snap photos of five pages in the binder that included a lesson plan for fifth-graders.

One of the pages, titled "Feel Good Reasons to Use FCs [Female Condoms]," included how to make sexual intercourse last longer and read: "Once you pop, you don't have to stop!"

The page included a drawing of a woman lifting up a 1950s-style house dress next to a smoking grill and read: "Feel the heat! FCs adjust to your body temperature, so you and your partner can both feel the heat."

Another page reads: "Got issues? Lube! Lube! Lube!"

Bryant said she was "offended" and horrified" that the "obscene" curriculum was intended for the school's fifth-grade children, who are typically 10 or 11 years old.

"The curriculum is appalling," Bryant said. "The language to me was the most offensive part initially. Pop and lube, lube lube, and those kid of things. ... [It] serves to rob many of our children of their innocence."

"The language for me is very much concerning to me as a parent. The content goes beyond what I feel is age-appropriate for a fifth-grader," said Bryant, who has two children who attend the school, which has 565 students.

An additional page in the binder instructs students how to use female condoms for anal sex.

Another Jackson parent, who asked not to be named, said she considers herself a liberal parent, but the curriculum slides were too much.

"I'm appalled. ... It doesn't necessarily meet the kids where they are at," she said. "Talking about lube and the heat that would be generated by using a female condom is not appropriate for a fifth-grader."

Parents said they had more questions about the curriculum; the school might hold another meeting. For example, parents weren't sure who would be teaching the information or how the information in the binders would be presented to students. 

A CPS teacher who did not want to be named confirmed that the new sex ed curriculum was implemented in fifth-grade classes at her North Side school during the last school year.

"Parents were really upset," the teacher said.

In a 2013 press release, CPS officials said implementation of this type of comprehensive education policy "helps to reduce school-level incidents of sexual misconduct and harassment and positively impact rates of [sexually transmitted diseases] and unintended pregnancy among Chicago’s youth."

At a board meeting in February 2013 where the new curriculum was approved, Whyte presented statistics showing that Cook County ranks first nationally for rates of gonorrhea and syphilis among all counties and second in Chlamydia.

She said more than half of all CPS high-school students report having had sexual intercourse, 12 percent before the age of 13. More than a third reported not using a condom during their last sexual intercourse, and more than a quarter say they've never been taught about HIV.

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