This is our report on the K-4 F.L.A.S.H. (Family Life and Sexual Health) curriculum from King County Health that is endorsed and listed as the #1 choice for sexual education programs by OSPI (Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction) in Washington State. This link will take you to the King County Health Dept page: https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/health/locations/family-planning/education/FLASH/about-FLASH.aspx
The information we are providing is shared under the Fair Use Doctrine. That is, it is intended for the education of the public. There is no profit associated with these disclosures.
If you are interested we have other articles on F.L.A.S.H. for the following:
FLASH Overview: https://swweducation.org?p=5042
FLASH Elementary: https://swweducation.org?p=5047
FLASH Middle School: https://swweducation.org?p=5052
FLASH High School: https://swweducation.org?p=5069
FLASH Special Education: https://swweducation.org?p=5072
FLASH Review: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: https://swweducation.org?p=5074
We have obtained the full materials for F.L.A.S.H. and reviewed them in detail. Our interpretations of the materials are included. You should check with your local school district to see what curriculum they are using for “health” and “sexual health”.
At what age is it important and necessary to start addressing sexual health? Is it kindergarten or 1st or 2nd or 3rd or 4th or….? When are children developmentally capable of understanding sexual matters? Based on anatomy boys and girls know there are differences but is there a need for more than that and if so what and when? And, are schools the right place or are these parent choices?
Today we bring you a review of the Washington State Kindergarten to 4th grade “health” education curriculum as supported by OSPI. The vehicle for this “education” is the King County Health “All About Life: Caring about myself, my family and my community”.
Where would you find this material? Well…it can be purchased from King County Health as part of their F.L.A.S.H. curriculum. It’s not listed in the website for review. The only place you can even see it exists is on the page where you purchase curriculum. As part of our comprehensive effort to disclose information about F.L.A.S.H we purchased the entire set of printed materials. We have been sharing parts of the material under the Fair Use Doctrine where portions of copyrighted materials can be shared with the public if the intent is education, information and understanding with no intent to profit.
The printed materials are the most current (according to King County Health). Where the digital versions of the materials are online we have found some differences in wording and content. This review is from the printed content.
Let’s dissect the materials:
- There are 194 pages broken into the following tabs:
- Parent Workshop
- About Myself
- Keeping Healthy
- Changing and Growing
Let’s take a look at each of those tabs:
Preface: (These are quotes from the text as the authors wrote it/them)
- Each topic has two lessons – one for grades K-2 and another for grades 3-4.
- We designed this program to link easily with other published curricula on sexual abuse prevention, self-esteem, violence reduction, drug abuse prevention and general health.
- The main emphasis of this program is on the process of developing social skills.
- We urge all school staff to provide each family with the “Talking Time For Parents” booklets and to conduct the “Parent Workshop”.
- This curriculum is based upon our basic human values: truth, equality, honesty, dignity, self-respect, responsibility and respect for others. It is intended to be inclusive of all families in the community.
- This curriculum improves school climate by: reducing anti-social behavior, sexual harassment and teasing among students; and increasing problem-solving skills, communication skills, empathy and respect for differences. Students learn valuable information about feelings, bodies, and sexual abuse.
- A couple of key points: The school must notify parents when the unit will be taught and describe the topics. Parents must also be allowed to withdraw their students from the unit. A letter for parents is in the “Talking Time For Parents” booklet.
- Parents are the primary sexuality educators of children. The school’s role is to augment this education and assist by providing communication opportunities.
- This curriculum is built upon the assumption that parents receive the “Talking Time for Parents” booklet and have an opportunity to participate in the “Parent Workshop”. This booklet outlines each lesson, suggests discussion questions for families, and provides opportunities for families to share their beliefs and values on these subjects. The “Parent Workshop” is designed to help parents: become familiar with the curriculum, discuss their concerns, share ideas and learn about resources. A video, “Speak With Me”, is included to use at the “Parent Workshop”.
- We suggest that All About Life be taught in a separate corner of the classroom, if possible. You might call it Kid’s Club
- Some lessons like those on the body systems may cause embarrassment. Our experience is that students quickly move past this reaction and they become engaged and interested in the lessons. Ways to dispel energy are to predict embarrassment to the students, i.e., “Now we are going to talk about the private parts of our bodies. It is common for people to get embarrassed. Let’s all giggle together for a few seconds.” Have children stretch or do something physical. If a child persists, stand next to her and lightly touch her shoulder while you continue talking. If you have class room aides, it can be effective to break the class into smaller groups for the topics on body parts.
- If the question is about beliefs or values, answer the factual part if there is one. Then explain that people have different opinions about this issue. Ask students to discuss it with their families and trusted adults.
- Some values are held universally by all or nearly all members of our communities. These include our basic American values: truth, equality, honesty, dignity, self-respect, responsibility and respect for others. Others universal values are: sexual abuse is wrong, it is wrong to knowingly transmit disease, and it is safest and best for school-age youth to delay sexual intercourse. These beliefs can be reinforced during discussions, while answering questions and when addressing problems in the class room.
- Why would the authors think some of this material was appropriate for kindergarten at all?
- Nowhere do they take into account developmental appropriateness
- Will K-2 or 3-4 really be interested in sexual situations?
- They say that parents are responsible but school needs to reinforce and support. Why?
- If the parents don’t participate in the “training” then the intent of the program is unfulfilled.
Lesson 1: Talking Time with Parents Workshop – The school’s role is to facilitate parents’ discussions with their children about sexuality, including their beliefs and family guidelines.
- Review the objectives of the lessons and understand how they fit in their child’s development.
- Have resources to answer their children’s’ questions.
- Review homework suggestions and have the opportunity to discuss them.
- Have the opportunity to discuss their concerns.
- The “Talking Time” booklet offers guidelines for caregivers to talk with your child about the lessons. Each lesson is summarized and suggestions given for discussion with your child. Some additional information is provided on topics like masturbation, self-esteem and “playing doctor”, which are not part of the curriculum. These are topics children frequently have questions about. You can decide whether to share this information with your child.
- The “Talking Time for Parents” pamphlet can be seen in this link: Talking Time for Parents Pamphlet
- Apparently it is critical that parents be fully involved in this curriculum starting in Kindergarten
- You be the judge as to whether the material is appropriate or not
- Why do schools feel they need to facilitate the discussion about sex between parents and their children? Who appointed schools as the moral monitor?
- There is a “quiz” for parents to complete and return to the school
Lesson 2: Relationships
- This chapter is broken down by K-2 and Grades 3-4
- This lesson addresses:
- Alike and Different
- Kinds of families
- These topics all fall under the “Health” curriculum
- In other materials in the F.L.A.S.H. curriculum they talk about being careful getting into “values”. However, aren’t a number of these topics “value” related?
- They finish on “families”. This is a prelude to later “education” where the concept of same-sex parents will be introduced
- Why are schools taking parental roles and responsibilities?
Lesson 3: About Myself
- Respecting others’ personal space is an important social skill for children to learn.
- Students will:
- Define what personal space means.
- Name one way of expressing comfort level with their personal space.
- Name one way of asking a classmate about her comfort level regarding personal space.
- Skill Development:
- Problem solving
- Interpersonal relationships
- Sexual abuse prevention:
- (Grades K-2):
- Review the genital body parts from “My Body” lesson. Note that the genitals and a girl’s chest are usually covered by a bathing suit to keep them private.
- Define sexual abuse as an older person touching your genitals or asking you to touch their genitals.
- (Grades 3-4):
- Ask students to define sexual abuse
- Appears to mirror the K-2 lesson pieces
- Anger and Feelings
- Mediation – To manage anger issues
- “Letting Go” – Students are taught relaxation techniques
- Teaching children to recognize sexual advances ends up being a public education need because ~80% of such abuse comes from a family member
- Teaching children how to manage anger and feelings seems to be a parental responsibility. There are values and opinions involved and school contradicting or sending a different message seems wrong
Lesson 4: Keeping Healthy
- Discovering our senses – Exercises about the 6 senses
- Staying Healthy – Learning about germs and their transmission K-2. In Grades 3-4 they introduce “communicable diseases” and discuss AIDS. Here’s what the teacher’s guide says:
- WHAT DO CHILDREN NEED TO KNOW AND WHEN?
- By Age 5
- Very young children need only the most basic information: AIDS is a serious disease.
- There is very little chance that children can get it.
- Do not pick up needles, sharp instruments or balloon-like things (condoms) if they find them
- It is important to treat all people with kindness, including people with AIDS.
- Ages 5-9
- School age children need more information. They may have begun hearing about AIDS or other STDs (sexually transmitted diseases).
- AIDS is caused by a virus called HIV.
- HIV cannot be spread by touching, holding someone, or kissing. AIDS cannot be caught on a toilet seat, water fountain, door knobs, or sharing items. There is very little chance that children can get AIDS.
- Do not pick up needles, sharp instruments or condoms if they find them.
- AIDS is passed during sexual intercourse or sharing a needle with someone using illegal drugs who has AIDS.
- AIDS IS PREVENTABLE.
- The best way to prevent AIDS is not to have sex and not to share needles.
- You cannot get AIDS at a doctor’s office.
- All blood in this country is checked for AIDS before it is given to anyone. People with AIDS should be treated like we all want to be treated, with compassion.
- My Body – In this portion of the lesson the students (using drawings provided):
- Skeletal system
- Muscle system
- Nervous System
- Reproductive System
- Circulatory System
- Respiratory System
- Digestive System
- Grades 3-4
- In third and fourth grades add the testicles to the explanation of male body parts. The testicles are in a sack called the scrotum. A fluid called semen which helps make a baby is made in the testicles. The penis also has nerve endings that are sensitive when touched. For female body parts, add the clitoris. The clitoris is an organ that has nerve endings that are sensitive when touched. The outside parts, the vaginal opening, the clitoris, and the urethra are covered by the vulva. The vaginal opening covers the vagina which stretches to let a baby come out during birth.
- Exercise: Have children assemble body systems with puzzle parts. To make puzzle parts
- Explain that a baby is formed when an ovum (egg cell) from a mother is joined by a sperm from a father. Draw a little dot to show how small the ovum (egg cell) is. The sperm comes from the father’s penis and the ovum (egg cell) comes from the mother’s uterus. (Remind students the mother’s egg is different from chicken eggs!) The fertilized ovum (egg cell) stays in the mother’s uterus and grows into a baby. It takes nine months, about one school year. The baby gets food from what the mother eats. The uterus is a warm and safe place.
- Teachers Note:
- Students may or may not ask about how the sperm meets the egg in the mother’s body. Depending on your own comfort level and what is acceptable in your community, a simple explanation is the father’s penis fits into the mother’s vagina. This can happen when the mother and father lay very close together during special times when they are alone. It is one-way adults show they love each other.
- Explain birth. When the baby is born, she comes out through the mother’s vagina. The vagina stretches during childbirth and then gets smaller after the baby is born. Sometimes babies are born by a C (caesarean) section, which is an operation.
- Grades 3-4
- Review K-2 materials
- Have students (using anatomical model) measure fetal size and development
- Brainstorm what fathers can do during pregnancy (lists examples)
- Teachers notes include fetal development; Q&A on various questions they think children might ask. One of the topics they list is:
- What is an abortion? An abortion is a procedure done by a doctor to end a pregnancy. There are different reasons why a woman may have an abortion. It is legal and safe.
- Age and developmental age appropriateness? It takes until the end of 3rd grade for most children to match up developmentally. This material assumes all children are on the same playing field. In reality individual teaching is needed and the only one’s that can do that are the parents
- When do children show interest in or pay attention to some of this material? It comes across more as “sensitizing” and “planting the seeds”.
- AIDS at this age group?
- Abortion is legal and safe…which implies it is normal and ok. A few parents might take exception to that view.
Lesson 5: Changing and Growing
Overview: The goal is to help children become aware of the possibilities which exist for all children and, as they get older, to identify the influences sex roles have in their choices.
Job Roles – Boys and Girls: The intent appears to be to show that many jobs can be done by both male and female. There are exercises where children are asked to list jobs boys can do and jobs girls can do and then to dispel those myths.
- Brainstorm expressions which indicate gender, for example, “throwing like a girl,” “act like a man.” Lots of pictures of men and women in roles that may not be seen as traditional for that sex.
Changing Families Unit – Families are probably the most changeable institution, in our culture. Every family experience’s life cycle stages of birth, growing up, sexuality decisions, leaving home, getting a job, illness and moving. But families also experience unexpected events like parents losing jobs, divorce, death, and maybe having your house broken into and robbed. Children learn to adapt to these changes with help from their families, friends, teachers, and other trusted adults.
- Homework – Write about changes they experience. Role play changes.
Growing Older Unit – Exercises relating to plants, people and other changes over time as aging occurs.
Death Unit – Overview: Death, like sexuality, has been a topic which is often whispered about when children are present. In reality children are exposed to death through cartoons, movies, books, and newspapers. Their pets die, relatives grow old and die, and sometimes people in their neighborhoods and families die unexpectedly. They hear about people dying in earthquakes and fires. Giving children information about this natural life cycle process helps increase their ability to cope with change. Be aware that there may be students in the class who are currently or recently experiencing a death of a friend, pet, or family member.
Review the life cycle changes from the “Babies” and “Growing Older” lessons. Let children know that death is the end of the life cycle and it happens to every living thing.
- Define death as when a person stops breathing, their heart stops working, they don’t have to eat or go to the bathroom, they don’t feel any pain. It’s like a broken toy or television which can’t be fixed. Explain that:
- When a person dies they cannot come back to life.
- Most people die when they are very, very old or very, very sick.
- Getting a cold is not a sickness which makes someone die.
Warp-Up and Review
Having students integrate the main concepts of this curriculum reinforces their learning. You may choose the elements that fit your individual class or follow the guidelines presented.
The student will be able to:
- List 4 trusted adults who can help with a problem.
- List 3 things they can do which makes them a good friend.
- List how their senses help them learn about their world.
- Have fun.
- Their intent is to remove all gender connotations. Male = Female. Anyone can do anything. Past job stratification and societal expectations or norms are out
- Their explanation of death contains a heavy value/belief component that many people may not agree with.
- There are religious and societal aspects that are not acknowledged and addressed
- Aging, birth, death, changes to families…why are these being taught in school?