School board approves sex ed for high schools

Published 11:31 am Friday, April 27, 2012

High school students in the Vicksburg Warren School District will be offered an abstinence-plus sex education curriculum when the 2012-13 school year gets under way in August, district trustees decided in a 4-1 vote at their monthly meeting Thursday night.

District 4 Trustee Joe Loviza voted against the proposal without comment, after asking about abstinence-only programs.

The district is required by recent legislation to offer high school students a sex education curriculum that can be either abstinence only-focused or abstinence-plus contraceptive education.

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Parents may opt out of having their children in the classes.

“Choosing the Best,” the curriculum VWSD trustees adopted, may also be taught to students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

Dr. Elizabeth Swinford, superintendent, said staff will decide how the program will be implemented in the high schools and possibly return to the board with a request to teach it in the lower grades, as well.

Each level of the program is age-appropriate, said Sherrie Williams, a former VWSD teacher who has directed implementation of the Safe Schools-Healthy Students grant the district was awarded in 2009.

“It’s not taught the same in all grades,” Williams said. The abstinence-plus materials don’t advocate or demonstrate contraception, but do educate about it, she said. Instruction runs 16 weeks and might be taught by the school nurses.

Currently, the district offers sex education instruction within high school health classes, Swinford said, but not in as comprehensive a manner as the newly adopted curriculum.

The district’s two high schools, Warren Central and Vicksburg, have about 2,200 students enrolled.

Also Thursday, the board unanimously approved spending about $187,000 to purchase two school buses for use in the next year.

The funds will come from an account set up specifically for that purchase.

Though he voted in favor, District 3 Trustee Jim Stirgus Jr. said he was concerned about spending.

“This is a want, not a need, which we are buying just because we want to spend the money,” Stirgus said, and closely questioned finance director Dale McClung on the amount of money in the account.

McClung said at the end of April it will total about $198,000.

Swinford said the buses would not only help bring the district’s fleet up to date and reduce maintenance costs, but would make it easier to allow separate buses to be dedicated to transporting students, many with discipline problems, who have been assigned to the district’s alternative Grove Street School.

“We are still running some buses from the late 1980s and early 1990s,” Swinford said. “Plus, Grove Street students were being transported to the junior highs and high schools and then transferred to Grove.

“We want to try to have some buses dedicated to students who have been removed from school. Possibly we will add a route to accommodate them and not have them on the bus of the schools they have been removed from,” the superintendent said.

Recently, parents complained that their children were harassed by Grove Street students on buses.

Swinford said routes have been shifted to resolve the problem.

In other business, the district’s capital asset manager Mike Ouzts, a former Warren County deputy and constable, was sworn in as a peace officer.

Ouzts said he recently completed a law enforcement officer refresher course and will not be a part of the school resource officer program but report to Swinford and the trustees.