Round Rock ISD's school health advisory committee is recommending changes to the district's sex education curriculum for eighth-grade students that would include information on contraception.
During an Oct. 11 meeting, health professionals provided the board with data that indicates the number of cases of sexually transmitted diseases is increasing in Round Rock compared with surrounding communities.
“Pregnancy rates are declining, but if you're looking at STDs, they're on the rise,” said JoyLynn Occhiuzzi, the district's executive director of community relations.
Occhiuzzi said the original program includes a section on contraception, but the board opted not to include that plan in the curriculum a few years ago. She said the health advisory committee, formed of community members and educators, is recommending to now include the contraception lesson plan in the curriculum.
“Adding contraception goes beyond pregnancy,” she said. “It's arming kids with the facts.”
Data from the Texas Department of State Health Services show that gonorrhea figures reported in Williamson County show a spike in 2009–10 with 118 cases reported each year. There were 103 cases reported in 2011, which is up from 65 cases in 2007. Georgetown and Cedar Park had only 35 and 28 cases, respectively, in 2011.
Chlamydia rates have been stable from 2010 to 2011, but in 2011, Round Rock had about 600 cases per 100,000 residents compared with almost 300 cases per 100,000 residents in Williamson County and about 475 cases per 100,000 residents in the state, according to data from the state.
Currently, the district uses 10 lesson plans from the Worth the Wait program developed by the Scott & White Sex Education Program. Topics include STDs, puberty, anatomy, health risk behaviors, developing communication styles and refusal skills, and healthy relationships.
If the Round Rock ISD board approves adding the lesson plan, it would not involve any demonstrations on how to use contraceptives nor would it involve bringing in items such as condoms into the classroom, Occhiuzzi said.
Included in the lesson plan would be an explanation of the types of contraceptives such as condoms, spermicide, intrauterine devices, emergency contraception, vaginal rings, natural family planning, withdrawal method, abstinence, and birth control pills, patches and injections.
The lesson plan would explain the effectiveness, protection from STDs and explanation of how each method is used, according to the presentation, which is available for download here or on the district's website under "Board Meetings."
The board will vote on a recommendation during the Nov. 15 meeting at 7 p.m. Occhiuzzi said the public will be able to comment at that time and will need to sign up before the meeting to speak.
The proposed changes to the curriculum were brought up during an Oct. 25 candidate forum. Board President Charles “Chad” Chadwell, who is running for re-election for Place 2 against Tere McCann, said he does not yet have an opinion on any changes.
Chadwell said he plans to look at the data and listen to the professionals on the effectiveness of the contraception lesson plan before voting.
“If we like what we see, it could start in January,” Chadwell said.
McCann said any abstinence-plus program that includes a discussion of contraceptives must be age-appropriate. He said any demonstrations of contraceptives would not be appropriate for middle school students.
Pauline Law, who is running for the Place 7 seat against Eric Pav, agreed that demonstrations are not age-appropriate for middle-school students. She said in a statement that parents should be allowed to choose whether their children participate in any sex education curriculum. The district currently allows parents to opt out of having their children participate in any sex education curriculum.
“Although I feel it is my responsibility as a parent to educate my children, I also understand not all parents are comfortable having those conversations,” she said. Therefore, offering sex education within our school system is necessary for those families who choose to 'opt-in' to the program.”
Pav said he supports the current curriculum and would only support any changes if it would be a significant benefit to the students.
“There is no sense in putting in a new module if it is not successful,” he said.