‘Get Real’ involves parents in the lessons
Students in grades 6 through 8 at Liberty Bell Junior-Senior High School will learn a new sex-education curriculum this year — one that gets high marks from the state’s education office.
If school leaders are satisfied with the results, the Get Real middle school curriculum may be adopted more permanently.
Superintendent Tom Venable made the decision to “field test” the curriculum in 2019-20, after speaking informally with all five school board members. Lessons will begin as early as next month.
The board liked what they heard about Get Real in a presentation on Sept. 11 from Keri Moore, a health educator at Room One.
“I was really amazed at the amount of fact-based information,” said board member Judith Hardmeyer-Wright, who once taught sex education. She said she thought parents would appreciate the role the curriculum asks them to play in their children’s education: the school presents the facts, while parents instill the values.
The middle-school curriculum teaches that abstinence is the healthiest option for students at that age. It also teaches that contraceptives should be used correctly and consistently, to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
The state requires schools that teach sex education to teach both abstinence and contraception.
The 27 separate lessons that make up the curriculum — nine for each grade level — devote a lot of time to communication and healthy relationships. Students are asked to act out situations in order to get comfortable saying “no” to someone they like.
“The idea of teaching consent is extremely important,” Moore said.
A study involving 24 middle schools showed that about 15% fewer students learning the Get Real curriculum were having sex by the end of eighth grade, compared to students learning other curricula.
The state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, which manages the state’s public schools, gave Get Real the second-highest rating among all curricula reviewed in 2015. The only curriculum to rank higher was Get Real for high school students.
Much of the coursework is intended to be done out of school, with a parent or a trusted adult. Matt Hinckley, the junior high teacher who will be teaching sex education this year, said the parent component distinguishes Get Real from the current curriculum, called Flash.
“We know that parents want to talk to their kids about this, and kids want to talk to their parents, but that can be incredibly difficult,” Hinckley said in an email. “Get Real … empowers parents to help their kids make healthy decisions.”
Get Real, developed by the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, has already been adopted in Brewster and Bridgeport, with favorable results. Students in Brewster who understood the concept of consent increased from 22 percent before the lessons to 74 percent after.
Moore acknowledged that a vocal minority of parents in Brewster were opposed to the curriculum, either because they didn’t believe sex education should be taught in schools or because Get Real was developed by Planned Parenthood.
“It has become a politically challenging brand,” Moore said. “In Brewster, several families were vocal to the school board about getting rid of Get Real, but only 10 students opted out.”
The state gives parents the option of requesting in writing that their children be excused from sex education lessons.
Hinckley said it was important for students of middle-school age to learn about sex.
“Evidence from not only here but around the U.S. shows that this is the correct age for this: before most students have to face the issues we teach about,” Hinckley said.
“The students are talking and asking about the issues taught in Get Real no matter what,” Hinckley added. “We have an obligation to provide them accurate information.”
Parents in the Methow Valley School District will have an opportunity to learn about the Get Real curriculum at a meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 8, at the Liberty Bell High School library. The school notified parents about the new curriculum and the meeting on Friday (Sept. 13).
Get Real’s one-year test run, while initiated by the superintendent, has the full support of the school board, Venable said.
“They left the meeting feeling well informed and confident in our ability to move forward,” he said.
Long-term adoption of a curriculum is typically decided in a vote by the school board, Venable said.