(Feb. 21, 2014) Administrators at Stephen Decatur Middle School put a swift stop to a Family Life and Human Development class lesson that involved modeling the human reproductive system last week.
Around 180 seventh grade girls carried out the activity in two classes before it was cut from the program.
“We agree that there are more appropriate ways to teach students about reproductive anatomy and health,” Stephen Decatur Middle School Principal Lynne Barton said in a statement. “Although the intentions of the activity were centered on student learning, we want our parents and community to know that the modeling activity will be excluded from all future lessons on reproductive systems.”
The modeling exercise was intended to teach anatomy and physiology. However, “we understand that learning about the reproductive system is a sensitive subject for our families and students,” said a statement issued by school system spokesperson Barbara Witherow.
The lesson involved seventh-grade girls using Play Doh to model male genitalia. Because these classes are divided by gender, no boys participated in the exercise.
The activity incited a polarized response when parents took to social media to either blast or defend the program.
“I was appalled to (h)ear that it was taught to this age group,” Ruth Wilkerson posted to WBOC’s Facebook page.
“For the most part my daughter had no problem with the class until the clay modeling,” Amy Hackler Stephan posted on Facebook. “My suggestion is that they present the parents with a night giving them the lesson plan and going over it.”
Gina Betz, however, questioned why reproductive organs are “so disgraceful and inappropriate.”
“It’s part of our bodies that we should be taught to accept and learn about,” she wrote.
Students begin the Family Life and Human Development course in fifth grade, with the state-designed curriculum carrying through junior year. The classes are taught by same-sex teachers, who go through training before heading the class.
Worcester schools send home a letter before the course begins, giving parents the chance to remove their children if they want.
“If they are uncomfortable with the curriculum, they can opt their child out,” Witherow said. “Very few parents do because they realize the importance of the curriculum.”
The schools are revising the letters they send to parents to give better information on the content Family Life and Human Development classes cover at each grade level. They are also working to define better ways of teaching the subjects covered in the classes.