Friday, March 4, 2011

Health Class Odyssey

In February 2010 my son registered for the 2010-2011 school year at the high school. I noticed that the health class required for graduation was now required for ninth-graders. In the past it had been offered to upperclassman. I called the high school and politely asked that they replace the health class with another class because I didn't approve of this health class.

And thus begun my odyssey.

Remember, I live in one of the most liberal states and our school district is one of the most liberal within the state. My rural community is actually quite conservative but my children attend school in a very anti-God, anti-religion, anti-values community. My kids are regularly harassed for being Mormons, for not drinking or doing drugs, and especially for being virgins. Kids and teachers alike consistently ridicule my kids.

This particular health class is very explicit. They do demonstrations on how to use birth control. They speak about sex in the most disrespectful ways and scoff at the idea of abstinence. Most of my kids' friends have lost their virginity by age 14. That's got to be the saddest thing ever. What happened to being a kid? What happened to just enjoying being a teen without all the adult responsibilities that come with sexual activity? These kids can't drive, can't vote, can't even drop out of school legally and yet they are involved in sexual activities. Very sad. And the school district, in all of its wisdom, never addresses the emotional impact sex has on kids. Never. They tell the kids to have "safe" sex. As if. There is no such thing as "safe" sex when it comes to premartial sex. Sure you can protect yourself from diseases most of the time, but what about the emotional and spiritual toll it takes?

My husband and I met with principal of our high school only because I'd complained to the assistant superintendent that the principal wouldn't discuss this with me and, suddenly, we had a meeting scheduled. We asked if our son could test out of the class, an option that had been available for years. She refused. We asked if we could homeschool him through the school's shared schooling program. Again, she refused stating that this health class was the only class that couldn't be homeschooled. She offered us an online option that he could take during the school day with a teacher in the room. We asked to see the curriculum of the online class. We were denied access. No matter what we asked for, the principal denied us and blocked us.

I continued to research laws and after sifting through pages and pages of the district website found the policy on health education buried so deep it was a miracle I found it.  The policy states that parents have the right to exempt their student from "any or all of the health education program." A-ha. I'd found the answer. Or so I thought.

I presented it to the high school principal, vice principal, and assistant superintendent and was told it didn't really say that after all. I showed them the exact wording and was told the wording needed to be changed.

My next step was to email all the members of the school board asking for clarification of the exemption policy. None of them replied. I emailed again. And none of them replied a second time. Not being one to give up, I attended a school board meeting and in the public session addressed the topic of exemption for the health class at the high school. The board members acted as if they'd never been notified of my plight. Oh brother. But, the superintendent was there and in public said they would address it. Nothing like a public forum to shed light on an issue.

A few days later an administrator whom I'd worked with before and respect greatly called me and promised she'd get to the bottom of this whole thing. She also assured me that CO school law backed me and that she was very familiar with school law. Basically, the district couldn't deny the exemption request and the principal either didn't understand that or didn't want to.

Finally, after all this going back and forth and, really, playing a power tug-of-war with the high school principal, the administrator called to let me know that all I need to do is to send an exemption request and my kids can take an elective in lieu of this health class and still graduate.



I'm pretty sure the principal figured if she threw enough roadblocks in my way I'd give up and go away. Not so. I don't give up and I don't go away, not when I feel so strongly about something.

Moral of the story: Don't give up. Don't let educators try to usurp your rights as a parent. Fight for what you believe in.


Stephanie Black said...

Rebecca, WOW! I am astounded and horrified at how hard the school fought back when you tried to exempt your son from a health curriculum you found deeply offensive. That's just crazy! Good for you for hanging in there and fighting until you won!

Canda said...

Congratulations! I hope other parents benefit from what you know now.

Shanda said...

Way to stand your ground. I also feel strongly about things like this and don't back down. Thank you for sticking to your moral standards.

Writers said...

I'm so glad you fought the long fight and won that particular battle. My children are grown, but I have fears for my grandchildren, nieces and nephews in public school systems where things have gotten so out of hand. You are a great advocate for Parents Rights. My book Save the Child is all about Parents Rights to make choices in their children's healthcare. We need more parents to stand up for their rights and demand them in behalf of their children.
Margaret L. Turley RN