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Abstinence education to begin at Williams schools
New ad hoc committee is formed Jan. 9

Williams Unified School District (WUSD) Board members voted to approve an ad hoc advisory committee during their regular Jan. 9 meeting in order to begin the process of offering an abstinence sex education program in Williams' schools. The program will be taught to students in grades 6 through 12 and offer instruction on family health issues, which includes abstinence education, according to WUSD Family Outreach Coordinator Sandy Roe. Members of the advisory committee will recommend a curriculum for the program.

Roe said the program would be offered via a grant for the Arizona Youth Partnership Group, who will teach and provide the materials related to the abstinence program.

"The Arizona youth partnership came in and talked with us. They were writing a grant and they wanted to include Williams," Roe said. "They teach abstinence education, along with several other topics that deal with these life skills, healthy relationships, that type of thing. They presented their program to us and we got them on the school board agenda, then they presented their program to the school board. It seemed like it might be a good fit and the school board wanted to move forward with it at that point in time. They're going to provide people to teach it through this grant, they'll come into the school, they'll teach it; all they need is a spot to do it. It basically wouldn't cost the school district or community anything. The school board went forward and they appointed an ad-hoc committee."

According to reports provided by a number of different agencies, including a 2006 NAU project, Arizona has a high rate of young pregnancies as compared to the national average. Williams, according the report, has a high number of young pregnancies as compared to the state average.

"There were several NAU nursing students that came to talk to us, to see what we thought might be needed in Williams and they also talked to the Williams Health Care (Center), because they knew there was a concern over teen pregnancies," Roe said. "They asked if they could do some research for us, so they went ahead and did the research dealing with the Williams community and found out, which we already knew, that there were several pregnancies and nothing was being taught. At that time, I think, Flagstaff was setting up their comprehensive (curriculum) on sex education. They have a complete program up there, but they have a lot more funds and students than we do. They came back and they gave us a power point. I presented part of that power point to the school board."

School board members also approved members of the ad hoc group Jan. 9, including Roe, Doris Ann Mertz, Nell Brown, Williams Elementary-Middle School (WEMS) Principal Donny Bridges, Ladena Dennison, Jaren Hudgens, Theresa Chavez, Dixit Patel and DaNene Pace. Ad hoc committee members are expected to review instructional materials that may be presented in the abstinence program to students and submit those materials to the WUSD board members.

Two public meetings are also planned for committee members to listen to public input on the program, though firm dates have yet to be finalized. The group's next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 29 beginning at 6 p.m. in the WEMS conference room.

Ad hoc board members met for their first meeting Jan. 15 to review open meeting laws, timelines for developing the program and other considerations. The group hopes to provide a recommendation to the WUSD board members at their next regularly scheduled meeting, slated for Feb. 13.

"The (WUSD) board approved our committee procedures and we looked at WUSD policy on family life education. Then we reviewed the NAU nursing project and an overview of local reproductive health needs and we discussed a timeline to review the curriculum. Right now there is a complete box of their curriculum in my office. This ad hoc committee covers the whole gamut of cultural diversity, because we want to get everyone's opinion on this before we move forward. We meet again on Jan. 29 and we'll discuss it and decide what we want to do. Do we want to recommend it to the school board or not? After that, then the school board will still have to hold two public meetings, that's policy. They'll make sure, especially parents of the children, know about this," Roe said.

Lessons in the abstinence program will be taught to boys and girls separately, according to WUSD officials. Curriculum in the program will be age appropriate, Roe said, though details on how the class will be organized are not finalized. While some sex education is currently taught in the WUSD, no in depth program is currently in place.

"Once our committee is done looking at the curriculum, it will go over to the district office and any of the public is free to go over there and look at it if they want," Roe said. "Even though it's abstinence education, it's not abstinence only, but the emphasis is on abstinence. They will mention other protective ways, but the emphasis is that the only 100 percent is abstinence. Of course, what they talk about is going to be based on grade levels, so what they talk about with high school seniors is not going to be what they talk about to sixth or seventh grade."

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