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N.J.S.D. Board of Education Votes on Updating Human Growth and Development Curriculum

At+a+special+meeting+of+the+N.J.S.D.+Board+of+Education+on+Thursday%2C+Nov.+2%2C+the+board+members+discussed+and+voted+upon+proposed+updates+to+the+district%E2%80%99s+Human+Growth+and+Development+curriculum.%0A%0A
At a special meeting of the N.J.S.D. Board of Education on Thursday, Nov. 2, the board members discussed and voted upon proposed updates to the district’s Human Growth and Development curriculum.

At a special meeting of the N.J.S.D. Board of Education on Thursday, Nov. 2, the board members discussed and voted upon proposed updates to the district’s Human Growth and Development curriculum.

At a special meeting of the N.J.S.D. Board of Education on Thursday, Nov. 2, the board members discussed and voted upon proposed updates to the district’s Human Growth and Development curriculum.

Zakary Will, Student of Journalism

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The N.J.S.D. Board of Education held a special meeting on Thursday, Nov. 2 to discuss and vote upon proposed updates to the district’s Human Growth and Development curriculum.

The curriculum contains seven groups, called strands, each dealing with one overarching theme. Four out of the seven different strands passed successfully, and the others are to be examined at a meeting to be held Nov. 30.

Susan Hull, the Director of Curriculum for the N.J.S.D., began developing the updated curriculum in April of 2016, assembling a competent committee composed of 17 teachers, students, parents, healthcare professionals, and a member of the clergy.

“I had just been here a couple of years, and the curriculum wasn’t current. It needed to be revamped,” Hull said, before explaining that the curriculum has been gathering dust for the last decade or so.

Anatomy and Physiology, the first strand successfully passed, also contained the fewest proposed additions compared with the others.

The strand introduced the idea of the human sexual response cycle, which details the ways that the human body responds to sexual stimulation, and it will be added to the sixth grade curriculum.

Other topics, such as the ability to describe the male and female reproductive systems, as well as the identification of credible sources of sexual health information, remain the same, but are simply being introduced in middle school as opposed to high school.

As the Internet and social media become more accessible to younger students, they find themselves much more likely to stumble upon inaccurate information. The Internet presents a complex labyrinth of lies and misinformation to young people, and the new curriculum seeks to teach them how to navigate it more effectively.

Puberty and Adolescent Development, the second strand, has the distinction of being the only one of the four strands to receive a unanimous vote of support from the board. The strand added several updates relating to identifying medically accurate information, as well as proper decision-making skills and strategies.

Similarly to the first strand, many of the objectives are simply being moved to earlier grades.

Hull confirmed that the changes are in response to children entering puberty sooner than past practice. Teaching the curriculum at younger ages is meant to reflect this fact and provide students with information about their development before it begins.

An article written by M. A. Bellis, J. Downing, and J. R. Ashton on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website supports the idea that the average age of puberty in developed countries has dropped by several years over the last few centuries. It concludes that the change is likely because of increased child nutrition and higher levels of stress.

This earlier puberty often leads to confused children, who have not yet been taught how their bodies are changing. Puberty already causes many to feel as though they are drowning in some sort of emotional ocean. The new curriculum hopes to teach these troubled students how puberty will change them, before the process has already kicked into high gear.

Pregnancy and Reproduction, the third strand to be approved, added learning objectives centered identifying the symptoms of pregnancy, cultural factors that influence decisions regarding sexual behavior, as well as the laws surrounding pregnancy, adoption, abortion and parenthood.

According to Hull, the main reason for the updates to this section stems from the Wisconsin Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The survey showed that 25 percent of NHS students reported engaging in sexual activity, with 90 percent using condoms.

These numbers only includes students who self-reported their activity, the real numbers are suspected to be closer to the 2017 survey’s statewide average of 33.6 percent having sex, and 62.8 percent using condoms.

One of the additions to the strand includes teaching students the steps to using a condom correctly. In this area, the N.J.S.D. severely lacks compared with other local districts, who have already been teaching students proper condom use for years.

The last strand successfully approved was STIs and HIV. Much of the new material surrounded the idea of proper decision making to avoid STIs, with a stress on abstinence and the proper use of condoms.

Several of the additions also relate to individual responsibility, both for getting tested for STIs and having an honest discussion with potential sexual partners about the importance of getting tested.

This strand takes on a special significance in the light of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding STDs in 2016.

The three nationally reported STDs — chlamydia, gonorrhea, and primary and secondary syphilis- have increased their rates of infection since 2015. Respectively, the rates have increased by 4.7 percent, 18.5 percent, and 17.6 percent, with a staggering 2 million reported cases between them.

In light of these increases, instructing students in the proper use of condoms becomes even more important, as they can drastically reduce the chances of these diseases being transferred.

The remaining three strands — Identity, Healthy Relationships and Personal Safety, are yet to be discussed and voted upon by the board. When asked whether she is confident that the remaining strands will pass with flying colors, Hull smiled brightly before saying, “I am.”

Once the entire framework has been approved, Hull and others will begin working on how exactly it will be implemented, and what resources will be available to teachers.

Provided everything runs relatively smoothly, Hull believes that the updated curriculum will be taught starting in the 2018-19 school year.  

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1 Comment

One Response to “N.J.S.D. Board of Education Votes on Updating Human Growth and Development Curriculum”

  1. Zakary Will on November 29th, 2017 11:14 AM

    The future meeting that I mentioned in the article will be taking place this Thursday, the 30th, at 6 p.m. at the Neenah Joint School District Administration Building (410 S. Commercial Street) if anyone is interested. I would highly recommend attending!

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