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Medford unanimously adopts sex-ed curriculum

The Medford School Board has adopted an updated health curriculum that introduces contraception in the eighth grade, as required by law, but leaves out detailed instructions on how to use a condom, even for high school students.

The unanimous vote to adopt the new curriculum at Tuesday's meeting was met with applause by the crowd, some of whom sported stickers proclaiming Medford Truth for Youth in support of the comprehensive health curriculum.

The Truth for Youth movement sprang up after the Applegate Christian Fellowship and its senior pastor, Peter John Courson, voiced opposition to the health curriculum's middle school lesson on contraception, said Kurt Katzmar, minister at Medford's Congregational United Church of Christ.

As folks in the Christian community, we wanted to make it known that we supported the health curriculum, Katzmar said.

He presented to the board a support petition with 608 signatures collected at churches, clinics and in door-to-door canvassing by concerned parents. Medford churches where clergy and members joined the drive include First United Methodist, First Christian Church Disciples of Christ and St. Mark's Episcopal Church, he said.

— We're here to say young people can make good decisions if they have good information, Katzmar said. It makes more sense to have this curriculum than not, even if some of the details cause a little discomfort.

Curriculum Director Todd Bloomquist and health teachers have honed the lessons to focus on abstinence and clinical information, removing references to sensation or fun linked to condom use. The board also asked him to remove detailed instructions on condom use included in the 10th grade lesson.

The board also reiterated that parents can opt out and parents will be notified about sex education lessons so they can review the material and meet with teachers. Board member Tricia Prendergast asked that the board remain open to alternative programs proposed by community groups for kids who opt out of the regular lesson.

The adopted curriculum also offers a process for teachers to evaluate guest speakers and make sure they meet the goals of the curriculum.

This board believes that we can prevent risky behavior with timely information on intimate behavior, board member Cynthia Wright said. We will make sure to communicate with parents so they have the details and active roles in this.

Lynn Reordan, a Jacksonville mom who homeschooled her children before sending them to South Medford High School, said she wanted to help develop alternatives for students.

Superintendent Phil Long said the district plans to review all its curriculum annually and update it as appropriate.

We can come back over the next year, he said. We've alerted the community that we are concerned about risky behavior.