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Our View: Confusion about Bayfield schools health, sex ed

Black horizontal lines strike through the word “comprehensive” in every reference in Bayfield School District’s new Health and Family Life/Sex Eduction or IHAM policy for seventh grade, approved unanimously by school board members in February.

“ ‘Comprehensive’ can get the district into trouble pretty quick,” board director Matt Turner said in a recorded Jan. 28 school board meeting, as reported in The Durango Herald on Monday

This statement got our attention. And at first glance, those strike-throughs of “comprehensive” were jarring and concerning.

We were curious about what part of “comprehensive” – exactly – was troublesome. Colorado law says school districts have two clear choices on sex ed: Opt out completely or offer a comprehensive health and sex education program, outlined by CRS 22-1-128. Emphasis on the word comprehensive.

In the meantime, community members told us the board made changes quietly without adequate notice to the public.

We can’t sort out all the details by press time. We have more questions and – we imagine – Bayfield’s BOE has more to say. At the very least, there’s been confusion and communication breakdowns, which breed suspicion.

For starters, the word “comprehensive” was eliminated from a policy that was never actually implemented.

And we now know the district chose a health curriculum over a sexual education curriculum for middle-schoolers.

A curriculum for high-schoolers is yet to be decided.

First, let’s back up. In an email to the Herald, Amy Davlin, Bayfield Board of Education secretary/treasurer, wrote that before June 2022: “Bayfield School District had no Health and/or Sex Education Curriculum in place, comprehensive or otherwise. The adoption of the BMS Health Curriculum on 09/27/2022 did not replace an existing curriculum.

“IHAM was voted into policy by the previously seated Board of Education on 10/23/2018. However, there is no evidence action to establish a Comprehensive Sexual Education Curriculum as per IHAM occurred before, or after, the 10/23/2018 vote.”

BOE members with the Bayfield Administrative Team corrected “language in policy IHAM to accurately reflect the goals of the district and the curriculum administered by the district.”

Hence, the black lines striking through comprehensive.

Bayfield’s BOE along with the administrative team adopted “a ‘health’ curriculum (rather than a ‘comprehensive’ sexual education curriculum), which we felt would best serve the needs of our school community and constituency base.”

Bayfield is not Durango, is not Cortez and, again, the school district can choose. We just need to understand what’s going on at every stage.

For review of “Teen Health 2021” by McGraw Hill, two days were available, Thursday, Sept. 15, and Tuesday, Sept. 20, with three two-hour time slots. BMS administrators had the curriculum available for an unspecified amount of time for people with conflicting schedules.

But were those windows of time enough?

We’ve seen this situation play out in school boards across Colorado and the U.S. Community members often learn about decisions late in the game, unless they have the time and inclination to keep up with notices, meeting agendas and recordings. Tough to do in the busy lives of families.

Questions come up. What is proper, reasonable notice in addition to posted agendas and meeting minutes? How to build trust that all actions are transparent?

For high-schoolers, if the Bayfield BOE does choose a sex education over a health curriculum, we want to lift up a significant change in the 2019 Comprehensive Human Sexuality Education Act: consent. Lessons on consent give teens unambiguous language, as in “no” means “no.” What crossing a line means in every definition of the word. This is additional, fine backup for parents.

Health and sex education bring up a lot to talk about with our schoolchildren. Respect and trust come when they bring home their questions for answers.

We’ll keep the conversations going. Meanwhile, check out the Colorado academic standards for comprehensive health, “Healthy Relationships, Sexual and Reproductive Health” at https://www.cde.state.co.us/cohealth/2020-cas_pgs-1_healthy_relationships_reproductive_health.