Health ed gets fresh look, new standards in schools (Sun-Times Media)

by Emily McFarlan Miller

WEST DUNDEE — The seventh-graders in Joseph Benoit’s health class at Dundee Middle School started class Thursday by journaling: What are three reasons someone might begin experimenting with drugs?

After a few minutes of writing, each student shared his or her answers with his or her color group, the others sitting at the same lab table. Then Benoit spun the color wheel on the interactive whiteboard at the front of the room and called on the black group to share their ideas with the rest of the class.

“They might not know the harmful effects,” ventured one girl, her hair in blond braided pigtails.

Those students know when it is their turn to talk and when it is their time to listen. That’s because they have practiced healthy communication and discussed a healthy decision-making process since sixth grade, Benoit said.

They use both when talking about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs in seventh grade, he said. And they’ll use both when talking about sex in eighth and beyond.

The first-ever National Sexuality Education Standards, proposed state legislation that would impact sex education in Illinois schools, and a study tying a state’s sex education programs to its teenage birth rates — all these have turned attention to what and how the subject is taught in area classrooms.

And what’s being taught, in both Elgin School District U46 and Community Unit School District 300, is what Benoit described as a “comprehensive health education curriculum.”

“We don’t like to refer to it as sex education,” he said.

For the rest of the story, read Health ed gets fresh look, new standards in schools (Sun-Times Media).

Photo credit: Michael Smart for Sun-Times Media.