Image from: an Alaskan health education website used by the Petersburg School District.

Petersburg’s School Board has approved a new policy that restricts sex offenders on campus. The school board also approved a sex education curriculum for the school year. As KFSK’s Angela Denning reports the school district plans to send parents more information about what kids are learning in sex ed.

Both issues were passed unanimously with little discussion during the last school board meeting. Both topics had been before the school board before. Board members had been discussing a policy for sex offenders on campus during the last several meetings. The Association of Alaska School Boards encouraged all school districts to adopt their own policy as there is none at the state level.

“It’s not coming at a time where there’s been an issue, which is always the best way to have policies,” said Superintendent, Erica Kludt-Painter. “They’re just in place and it’s not coming out of some sort of emergency or some terrible situation.”

Kludt-Painter checked with the school district’s attorney on the wording in the policy before the final vote. The policy would only allow sex offenders who are parents or guardians onto the school campus for specific reasons, like to pick up or drop off their student and for parent teacher conferences, and only with prior approval from administration. The campus includes all the schools and places the schools use during instruction, like the auditorium and community gymnasium.

The sex education curriculum is something that the school board is required by state law to go over every year including who will be teaching the subject in each school.

Kludt-Painter told the board that the information being taught this year is the same as last year.

“There are no significant changes to curriculum or to teachers or to presenters that have been approved in the past,” she said.

Presenters who are not teachers have included the Public Health Nurse, Erin Michael, Dr. Jennifer Hyer, and staff with WAVE, Working Against Violence for Everyone.

The general sex education curriculum according to grade level can be found through links on the school district’s website.

Teachers and presenters also use power point presentations and websites.

Middle School Sex Ed instructor Joann Day, told the school board that she uses the I Know Mine website among other health information websites. She says parents can access her curriculum through the student’s Google Classroom accounts.

“I like to link everything on Classroom so that they always have that link whether it’s a website or a presentation that I use because it may not be super relevant in the 8th grade but in high school maybe when it comes up they can look back on it and always have those resources,” said Day.

All of the sex ed presentations given at the schools are first approved by administrators and the school board. Parents are notified through a letter in the mail that their child will be having sex education coming up in class.  

School Board Member, Jay Lister, suggested the school district include more specific information about what students will be learning in those letters. And send emails.

“Be a little more proactive on helping the parents see what they’re presented with,” Lister said. “Somehow send an email to the parents of the kids taking that class, the different slide shows, so that you can have conversations at home to help answer questions and things like that.”

Lister says some parents might not search out links on the district’s website. He asked that the district include direct links to power point presentations that are being taught. He says it’s important for parents to talk to their children at home about what they’re learning in school so that they can help answer any questions.

“I think it’d be nice to send the parents an email with the link,” said Lister. “‘This is the class, this is what we’re talking about, I recommend you read through this just so you can have an intelligent conversation with the kids’. I think it’s just as important that we have a talk with our kids at home too about things that they understood or didn’t understand.”

Board Member, Katie Holmlund, agreed that sending parents links to presentations could help. She says parents could see what terminology is being used for sex education.

“I still feel like for a lot of parents a power point–even though it’s technically out of context–might make more sense than reading how you list curriculum out with content standards and things like that,” Holmlund said. “A lot of that is not very accessible to your typical parent.”

Superintendent Erica Kludt-Painter says the school district will look in to adding more information and links into the letters sent to parents including prompts to talk to their children at home about sex education.