Gwinnett resuming selection process of sex education curriculum

Negative community feedback caused board to delay a decision
The Gwinnett County school board voted in 2023 to adopt HealthSmart as the district health curriculum, but that did not include sex education. The district is repeating its selection process to determine what resource it will use. CHRISTINA MATACOTTA FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

The Gwinnett County school board voted in 2023 to adopt HealthSmart as the district health curriculum, but that did not include sex education. The district is repeating its selection process to determine what resource it will use. CHRISTINA MATACOTTA FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Gwinnett County Public Schools is making another attempt to select a sex education curriculum a year after a district health staff recommendation to use a more comprehensive resource drew vocal community backlash.

The clashing viewpoints left the board unable to make a decision, and members opted to delay a vote and repeat the selection process.

A timeline for adoption on the district website indicates that the board would be asked to vote on a sex education curriculum in early 2025 for implementation in the fall.

“As we embark on the process once again, can we make sure that concerns are met this time around so that we are not feeling like we are not able to move forward?” board member Adrienne Simmons asked.

District staff said there were adjustments to gather more community input but were not able to provide specifics at Thursday’s meeting. Deputy Superintendent Nikki Mouton said they would provide board members with more information.

Gwinnett is in the staff review phase of the process. Six different vendors have submitted their materials to the district, and review committees will select two to be piloted in classrooms. A committee of teachers will meet Tuesday to select two options to be piloted.

The Instructional Resource Review Committee, which consists of parents and community members who applied to participate, will provide feedback on the sex education resources and other subjects when it meets Feb. 29.

The choices include Choosing the Best, the curriculum Gwinnett has used for about 20 years, and HealthSmart, the curriculum that district staff recommended after last year’s selection process. Georgia requires sex education to promote abstinence, and both resources have that central message.

Many people who gave input on sex education resources last year, including hundreds in a survey, said Choosing the Best has worked and sticks to an abstinence focus. State Superintendent Richard Woods twice wrote to the district to advise against a change to HealthSmart. Woods said Choosing the Best has lessons on abstinence better aligned with state requirements for sex education.

Critics of HealthSmart targeted it for exploring topics such as consent, gender identity and sexual orientation and said information about contraceptives conflicted with the lessons on abstinence.

Several Gwinnett health teachers said the additional information is important for inclusion and better informing students about reducing risks that may come with sex, noting that more than half of all high school seniors report being sexually active. The district piloted HealthSmart in the fall of 2022.

The other textbook providers that submitted materials are Goodheart-Willcox, Human Kinetics, McGraw Hill and Savvas.

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