By Ryan Ekvall | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON – Parents, do you know your elementary school’s masturbation education policy?
The Oak Creek School District developed a booklet for parents of elementary students to help them “understand how staff and outside resource people will handle these sensitive topics.”
Sensitive topics, indeed.
The elementary school booklet covers masturbation, sexual intercourse, sexual orientation, abortion and contraception.
The booklet is a complement to the Human Growth and Development curriculum that takes various forms throughout public school districts across the state.
It’s unclear how prevalent the Human Growth and Development curriculum is throughout the state. However, a 2012 law changed several requirements of school districts that do offer Human Growth and Development.
Those changes include:
- Abstinence as the only reliable way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV and AIDS.
- Medically accurate information about HIV and AIDS.
- Pregnancy, prenatal development, and childbirth.
- The socio-economic benefits of marriage for adults and their children.
Other topics, such as masturbation, are open to the school board’s discretion.
In Oak Creek, parents can pick up the booklet at school during registration, according to Sara Burmeister, the school district superintendent. Parents also are sent letters before specific topics are taught and can opt their children out of the curriculum, though Burmeister says that rarely happens.
School boards, too, can opt not to offer Human Growth and Development.
When it comes to a grade-schooler’s questions about masturbation, staff will first define the term “the stimulation of one’s own genitals for the purpose of achieving sexual pleasure.”
Staff, though, are advised not to answer questions of personal sexual experience.
The handbook also directs staff to explain that some people masturbate and some do not. And encourages staff to “help students understand that attitudes toward masturbation may be a strong part of family values and beliefs and opinions often vary.”
Students, according to the handbook, will “be encouraged to talk to parents in order to help them develop their own values and beliefs about masturbation.”
Burmeister said the language in the booklet doesn’t mean masturbation will be discussed with or taught to students of any grade level. Staff can decide whether they should answer a child’s questions on masturbation and other sensitive topics.
“All it does is say this is how we define these terms at the appropriate grade level when it comes up,” she said. “So parents will know if their kid asks ‘What is this?’ parents will know how our committee defines the terms as we would use them in the schools. Sometimes kids are too young and you can say to them, and I know I did with my kids, ‘That’s something you don’t have to worry about now.’”
“We are more of a conservative community,” she said.
In the McFarland School District, in addition to similar policies for discussing masturbation, an objective for third graders is to discuss suicide.
A sixth-grade objective is to “define sexual intercourse, including oral and anal intercourse.”
McFarland school officials did not return calls from Wisconsin Reporter.
How much discretion should elementary schools and school boards have regarding teaching about sexually related topics?
Is this something the schools should teach, or would you prefer the alternative: “Go ask your parents”?
Contact Ryan Ekvall at [email protected] or find him on Twitter @Nockian.