Dear Parents and Guardians:
As part of our commitment to promoting healthy living and responsible decision making, Wayland Middle School wellness teachers are charged with educating students about human sexuality and disease prevention. Through the following standards the Massachusetts Comprehensive Health Curriculum Framework identifies information middle school students should acquire by the end of 8th grade in the area of "Reproduction/Sexuality":
4.5 Recognize the emotional and physical changes as related to the reproductive system during puberty.
4.6 Explain the benefits of abstinence, postponing sexual behavior, and setting limits on sexual behavior.
4.7 Describe short- and long-term consequences of sexuality-related risk behaviors and identify barriers and supports for making health-enhancing decisions. Students discuss consequences around sexuality decisions. Determine and role-play steps that improve decision-making (such as with whom to consult, information overlooked).
4.8 Describe behaviors and methods for pregnancy prevention, including abstinence
4.9 Define the types of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS, and how they are prevented: Students report on the policies of various states and countries regarding STIs prevention among youth.
4.10 Identify sexual discrimination and harassment: Students use current events or media portrayal to discuss the consequences of discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Our BERT values of belonging, empathy, respect and trust are used to frame classroom conversations involving human sexuality. Students are reminded of the need to listen respectfully and participate in discussions appropriately. The decision making tenets that underpin all aspects of our Life Skills wellness curriculum - Clarify, Consider, and Choose - are central to teaching and learning about human sexuality.
Students view the DVD in single gender groups to build an understanding of the bodily changes that adolescents experience during puberty, including anatomical descriptions of the reproductive system. The Human Sexuality Supplement of the January 2008 Weekly Reader article, "What's Down There? A Tour of the Reproductive System," is also used as a reference (a copy is available in the school library). Students are encouraged to share their thoughts and insights around the video and article. They are invited to pose questions anonymously, which reflect their curiosity around topics about which they need factual information, a critical component of intellectual wellness.
In 7th grade, Ms. Riddle spends two class periods focusing on bullying and cyberbullying prevention, which addresses Reproduction/Sexuality Standard 4.10. Students learn how to identify the various forms of harassment and bullying and how they can be empowered to combat it. Students confidentially report on their own experiences of mean behavior or bullying, allowing their own collective data to be the basis for stimulating class discussion. Role-play is also a tool used to build students' skills and assertiveness.
In 8th grade, Ms. Araszkiewicz devotes one class period to learning about methods of pregnancy prevention and watching the DVD, Am I Ready? Making Healthy Sexual Decisions. ( http://pub.etr.org/ProductDetails.aspx?id=100000028&itemno=G214.) A second class is devoted to teaching information about sexually transmitted infections (STIs), touching upon Reproduction/Sexuality Standards 4.6-4.9. Statistics on the effectiveness of each contraceptive method are shared. The ten most common STIs are explained, including symptoms and treatment. A third class is built into the curriculum to answer any additional questions and to review the topics in further detail, if need be. As in 6th grade, students are invited to anonymously pose questions. Questions are reviewed and selected by Ms. Araszkiewicz who shares factual information that respects students' developmental readiness.
Please know that under Massachusetts law, parents have the right to opt their child out of any single lesson, or opt out of an entire unit, that includes information about human sexuality. An alternative wellness activity will be offered to your child during that time. Parents may do this by writing me a letter.
Parents' voices are important components in the work of educating middle schoolers about reproduction and sexuality. We encourage you to discuss these topics with your student and communicate your important family values. If you have further questions about the curriculum you may contact your child's wellness teacher. Our guidance counselors can also be a support as you help your child navigate issues of sexuality that emerge in adolescence. Thank you.