After vote postponement, board votes 5 - 2 to renew curriculum use for remainder of the school year

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - The Scappoose School District board of directors voted 5-2 Monday night to renew the use of health curriculum in the district for the remainder of the school year. The district will have to adopt a new curriculum for the 2018-19 school year that meets new Oregon Department of Education standards.
The Scappoose School District will continue to use the same health curriculum, including what some consider a controversial approach to sexuality education, throughout its schools in the 2017-18 school year, until a new curriculum is adopted next spring.

The Scappoose School District board of directors voted 5 to 2 Monday night to approve use of the district's current curriculum for the remainder of the school year.

The board failed to pass a majority vote to renew the health curriculum in November when two board members — Jim Hoag and Will Kessi — were absent and the board could not garner the necessary four votes to either approve or deny the renewal. The board ultimately voted to table the renewal until this past Monday.

Monday night's renewal passed with little discussion. Board member Lisa Maloney, who ultimately voted against the renewal, spoke briefly during the meeting to say her decision was based on the content of the curriculum.

Following the meeting, Maloney said she voted against the renewal of the curriculum, which contains topics regarding sexuality education, for the same reasons she voted against it in November — certain units and lessons in the curriculum refer to gender identity and abortion-inducing drugs, topics she had concern with being taught in the classroom.

Board member Tim Brooks joined Maloney in the dissenting vote and said following the meeting that several community members had approached him regarding the issue as far back as May, when he ran for the board. Several people express concern that certain topics, like transgender identity, were being taught at a young age in school.

Board Chair Phil Lager, who voted in favor of renewing the current health curriculum, said he trusted teachers in the school district to teach age-appropriate material that reflects community values.

Interim Superintendent Ron Alley said the health curriculum is used throughout the school system to teach a variety of topics, not just sexuality education. Health education includes teaching young students about making health food choices, emphasizing social skills, understanding emotions and mental health and other similar topics.

The district will be required to adopt a new health curriculum next year for use throughout Scappoose schools, despite Monday's short-term renewal. The new curriculum must meet new standards the Oregon Department of Education approved earlier this year.

Alley said a committee comprised of school health officials, principals, district office staff, parents and representatives from local health organizations will meet in early January to review various curriculum before making a recommendation to the board.

The committee will assess the content to determine if it meets state standards, and noted that recommendations aren't intended to be made for ethical reasons, Alley explained.

"You're not really evaluating the moral or personal values as much as you are looking to see if this text matches with the standards," Alley said.

The committee will hold its first meeting Saturday, Jan. 13. The school district will be asked to vote on approval of the new health curriculum in spring.

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