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RFSD Board adopts controversial health curriculum

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The debate over a comprehensive health and human sexuality curriculum to be taught at Roaring Fork School District (RFSD) schools ended on May 24 with the Board of Education’s unanimous approval. The curriculum was recommended by Chief of Student and Family Services Anna Cole and her team.

The decision came after weeks of vigorous discourse by parents and community stakeholders who submitted written comments through the district website and in-person remarks at school board meetings, either supporting or opposing the Rights, Respect and Responsibility curriculum, also known as the 3Rs.

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The 3Rs curriculum, according to their website, is a comprehensive human sexuality curriculum developed by a national nonprofit, Advocates for Youth, in collaboration with a team of experts and educators. The curriculum emphasizes the importance of respecting oneself and others, promoting healthy relationships and making informed decisions. It aims to equip students with accurate, age-appropriate information about sexual and reproductive health, relationships and consent to foster respect for diverse identities and responsible behavior.

Despite the availability of opt-out alternatives for parents who do not wish to have the 3Rs curriculum taught to their children and teachers who decline to teach it, those who opposed its adoption cited objections based on religious or moral beliefs, concerns about age appropriateness, desire to keep sex education home-based only, preservation of cultural norms and fears of promoting early sexual activity among young people.

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Amanda Cerveny, the parent of a former and current RFSD student, spoke to The Sopris Sun about her concerns. “We haven’t come to a resolution that encompasses everyone,” she said. “If the goal were to ensure an inclusive curriculum, there wouldn’t be a debate.”

When asked if there were other curriculums she would support, she explained,

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“We need to do our diligence as parents and educators so that we don’t just throw one thing out on the table and hope it fits everyone. It should be something that a majority of people can feel encompasses everyone. That might be impossible, but it’s certainly worth taking the time to explore.”

Among the 60 community members in attendance, one of the youngest speakers was Selah Schneiter, an eighth grader at Glenwood Springs Middle School who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Addressing the board, she said, “Without representation in the school curriculum, children experiencing feelings outside the heterosexual norm are made to feel strange and different. This also influences their peers to see them as strange and different, and easier targets for bullying, teasing and even harassment.”

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Schneiter addressed the importance of respect, compassion and inclusivity for those in the LGBTQ+ community. She said, “I am not strange; I am not different. I am not a threat or a bad influence on my peers. I go to church almost every Sunday, and I’m active in my youth group. I like to bake and climb. I’m good at math, but I’m nervous about how well I did on my math test yesterday. I’m normal, and every one of our students deserves to feel welcomed and normal, not just by school counselors or one of their teachers; they deserve to be embraced by their peers, the administrators and everyone they encounter at school.”

The curriculum will be implemented during the 2023-24 school year.

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In her closing remarks, before the meeting’s adjournment, Board Secretary and Treasurer Natalie Torres said, “I do want to comment that I appreciate all the work and involvement that has gone into this. I want to relay a personal hope that, based on the written and public-speaking comments we’ve heard, this curriculum can help our kids teach adults how to treat each other with respect and kindness. I really do hope that this is something that we can get from this as well.”

Tags: #3Rs curriculum #Amanda Cerveny #Anna Cole #health #LGBTQ+ #Natalie Torres #Roaring Fork School District #Selah Schneiter
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