Education, Health, and Safety

School district drops sex education vendor – Delaware Gazette

SUNBURY — The Big Walnut Board of Education heard about a sex education vendor at its April 21 meeting.

During the academic achievement portion of the meeting, the board was told a vendor had been withdrawn following a review by the district’s Academic Advisory Council. It was said that Relationships Under Construction, which has taught sexual risk avoidance education at all Delaware County high schools since 2006, wouldn’t be teaching the district’s seventh graders next month. It was said the district staff will have to do the teaching.

The board was told the vendor was removed because it wouldn’t provide a PowerPoint presentation, which was part of the materials taught, to the council. Members of the council were told they couldn’t receive the presentation due to a copyright issue. Since the council said it would be transparent with all parties, it couldn’t use the vendor if the vendor couldn’t let interested parties see the withheld material.

Board member Alice Nicks said she wanted to hear from a vendor representative. Assistant Superintendent Mark Cooper said that might be more appropriate during the public comment portion of the meeting, yet relented.

Catherine Wood, of Relationships Under Construction, said the word marriage had been asked to be removed from the PowerPoints, and other changes were sought. Wood said they weren’t meeting state and federal law, and Big Walnut was the only district with that request.

Cooper began to ask questions and board member Stephen Fujii said, “I call for the order of the day. We need to follow the agenda. This presentation is not on the agenda. We’re in a process now of cross-examination.”

Board member Sherri Dorsch said, “Every member of this board should follow board protocol. We don’t spring things in.”

Later in the meeting, Director of Student Services Ross Linscott gave an extensive update on House Bill 436, Ohio’s Dyslexia Law.

“It definitely falls under Whole-Child Development, kind of an interesting time to present this,” Linscott said, citing one of the district’s goals after the board had just voted earlier in the meeting to cease surveying its students. “Serving students with disabilities is a passion of mine.”

The bill was introduced in 2019, signed into law 13 months later, and became effective last April. Screenings begin next school year, he said.

“I’m very proud of the staff who have stepped up” to learn the new teaching requirements, Linscott said.

Facilities Director Doug Swartz updated the board on chiller replacements at the new middle school (the old high school). The artificial turf for the school is ahead of schedule, he said. “The renovation is coming along fine,” Swartz said.

Swartz said there will be an online auction of items such as furniture and locker bays from the old high school that are no longer needed.

Treasurer Jeremy Buskirk said he will give his five-year forecast next month. He said there were public information requests in the past month, each taking at least an hour to process and send off.

Also during the meeting, Nicks held up a book from Betty Birney’s Humphrey series of which she said “was a wonderful little story about this little hamster, addressing some of the issues of bullying.” She said she gets contacted often about bullying going on at the schools and read a list of tips for dealing with bullies.

“I don’t know what the solution is,” Nicks said.

“I’ve got a few ideas,” Cooper said, “starting with Panorama and social-emotional learning,” referring to the survey company the board had just canceled their contract with, and the form of teaching board member Angela Graziosi was critical of.

Dorsch said she had attended a 4-H CARTEENS program in Delaware for juvenile traffic offenders. She said programs like this rely on survey data like what is now being taken away. Dorsch reminded board members that they are supposed to “work together to better the education for our students here in this district.”

Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.

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