CCS approves sexual risk avoidance presentation for 10th grade

Published 3:12 pm Wednesday, July 17, 2019

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

The Chilton County Board of Education, at the recommendation of Chilton County Schools Superintendent Jason Griffin, has approved Decisions, Choices and Options to present in all 10th grade health classes.

The motion was approved 4 to 3. Board President Brian Jackson, Vice President Jacqueline Sullivan, Angie Sanderson and Chris Smith voted in favor. Board members Pam Price, Lori Patterson and Keith Moore opposed.

According to the DCO website, “DCO is a primary prevention, multi-layered curricula based on the sexual risk avoidance (SRA) education model. SRA is a proven effective approach in communicating the risks and negative outcomes associated with early onset of sexual behavior. Other preventative health education programs targeting youth in the area of risky behaviors such as smoking, alcohol, and texting/impaired driving are also based on the model of risk avoidance …  Avoiding the risks 100% allows them the freedom and abilities to pursue their dreams, goals and hopes for the future.”

Price asked if there would be waivers that could be signed if a parent did not want the student in the presentation.

Griffin said no. However, later he said he agreed that a parent had a right to know when the presentation would be made to keep their student out of the class session.

“The day that this was presented to us, I was watching the people that were here,” Price said. “I made four phone calls, just to ask their opinion, what they thought about it… I feel like with this program you are meddling into my business as a parent, if you want this taught it needs to come out of a book. You are opening a can of worms.”

She also expressed concern that these would be co-ed classes.

Price said she “was very shocked” that all four people she talked to were against having the presentations because she had thought one of those she called would be “all for it.”

“This is approved under the state course of study,” Griffin said.

“If it’s in the textbook that’s one thing, but we are letting an outside organization come in,” Price said. “The first child that you (parent) are not wanting to sit in there. What’s going to be the protocol?”

A specific policy was not discussed, but it was recommended parents discuss concerns with their students attending.

Board member Angie Sanderson said the program was “not out of line with what students would hear in a classroom.”

“I am associated with a pregnancy resource center in town, and if you came there and you sat there every day and you watched these young girls come in — this is about safety,” Sanderson said. “It is about helping these young people make informed decisions.”

She said it was “totally your decision” if a parent wanted their student out of the classroom.

“This is not going to infringe on any religion that is not what this is about,” Sanderson said. “This is about focusing on our students and saying … we know what decisions and choices you are having to make at this time in your like because this is what society is telling you, but we want you to be informed, so you can grow into a healthy whole adult.”

She said many teenagers do not know the consequences of their decisions.

DCO is separate from any local organization.

Locally, DCO presentations are given by Chanel Bingham. In an interview separate from the BOE meeting, Bingham confirmed the only Chilton County school she has presented at on a consistent basis (once per semester) was Chilton County High School. Additional schools are listed on the program’s website as the presentation being given, but these have not been on a consistent basis.

All presenters in the program are certified by ASCEND, the nation’s leading SRA training institute. Bingham said the presentation “stresses the importance of making healthy life choices for optimal success in life. The presentation provides facts about the educational, physical, and financial impact of both sexual activity and teen pregnancy. Students will see the hard options surrounding an unplanned pregnancy, the outcomes of their choices, and how their decisions impact their lives, as well as their family and others.”

“Students learn that sexual abstinence is the only 100% effective method of eliminating these difficult and negative life outcomes,” Bingham said.

Statistics, testimonials and video presentations are used as a part of DCO.

“Chilton County’s teen birth rates remain above the state average and are significantly higher than those in our neighboring counties where our program is being consistently shared,” Bingham said, citing information from the Alabama Department of Health.

She said these numbers have declined in Shelby and Jefferson counties where these presentations are made.

“We all want what is best for our students, and I have seen time and time again that the DCO program leaves an impact on students that can really change the trajectory of their life and point them in a positive direction for their future,” Bingham said. “I always love hearing feedback from students who say the information we share has helped them make better choices for their future.”

Also during the meeting, the Board approved:

  • Allowing youth football leagues in Isabella, Thorsby and Verbena to use school facilities.
  • A pest control bid specifically for the school cafeteria.
  • Changes to the Student Parent Handbook to the dress code, implementing to a point system for grading and establishing locker ($10) and parking fees ($25) for all schools.
  • Project Lead the Way instructors to attend training.