Washington State requires HIV/AIDS education starting in 5th grade and continuing through high school. The current recommended material is the subject of this article. We’ve tried to condense the essential pieces here.
KNOW Curriculum: Grades 5-6
The last updates to the KNOW curriculum were done in 2014.
The document is 95 pages long in PDF format. (http://www.k12.wa.us/HIVSexualHealth/pubdocs/KNOWGrades5-6.pdf)
In this review we will share details from the document and make observations and comments. We encourage the reader to go through the document themselves and either confirm our observations or come to their own conclusions. We offer to share all comments from readers on our blog so long as the writer provides their true name and contact information. (Note: If requested, once we have verified the accuracy and truthfulness of the responder, we will hide their name on request)
The authors (writers) were:
Andrea Gerber; Kari Kesler; Becky Reitzes and Public Health – Seattle & King County
King County Health developed and distributes the F.L.A.S.H. curriculum as well so you may find crossover in some of the words, phrases and theme’s.
Please consider, as you read this material, whether it is age appropriate and whether schools should be teaching this material or whether parents should make the choice and be responsible. The notes below are an honest attempt to glean the essential components under each section to reduce the required reading time while being as accurate as possible.
Here is a review of the Grade 5/6 KNOW curriculum from a 3rd party: Notes on KNOW curricula grades 5 and 6
Here is a side-by-side comparison of the State supplied KNOW Grades 5-6 to the Battle Ground PS KNOW Grades 5-6 (from the district website). In this link the State is on the left and the BGPS is on the right. They appear to be essentially identical but judge for yourself: https://draftable.com/compare/XbOcbAVKoFVt
KNOW Curriculum and U.S. HIV Epidemic
- Their claims include: The KNOW Curriculum is a model HIV/STD prevention curriculum. The KNOW Curriculum is provided in three grade level manuals (Grades 5/6, 7/8, and High School). The goal of the KNOW Curriculum is to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. The impact of HIV has been dramatic in the U.S., especially among young people and marginalized communities. This is in large part due to limited access to appropriate and affordable healthcare, comprehensive and accessible education, and testing. They cite data about infection rates and death.
Comment – The high school curriculum was removed in the Spring of 2017 but the text was not corrected. A goal of preventing is unattainable. Reduction perhaps but not prevention. They choose to focus on “marginalized communities” which raises questions about their intent. The infection, death and treatment options have changed significantly since 2014 so this material is out-of-date which violates their own standards. It should be updated on an annual basis…if…they were truly interested in accuracy.
Teens and STDs
- Nearly half of the 19 million new cases of STDs each year are among people aged 15–24 years. By the time of high school graduation, almost two thirds of young people have had sex. Nearly 40 percent of sexually active students did not use a condom the last time they had sex, and one in five drank alcohol or took drugs before their last sexual intercourse. A number of factors lead to sexual risk-taking and the higher likelihood of getting STDs.
- Young women’s cervixes are still developing, which make them much more vulnerable to getting an STD than adult women.
- Most people who have an STD, especially women, have no symptoms, so they and their partners do not know that they have them.
- Many teens are not receiving comprehensive sexual health education.
- Many teens do not have access or have limited access to free condoms and free and confidential testing and treatment.
- And finally, many teens are in unequal and coercive relationships, especially young women.
Comment – Since this curriculum is focused on grades 5-6 and the intent is to inform and influence students in the K-12 arena, the information should focus on them and not get lazy and use 15-24 numbers. Our own research showed little to no data in the K-12 grade ranges. If students are to be guided they need to be given accurate data. The lack of such data makes this material fatally flawed. They claim many are not receiving comprehensive sexual health education and yet the schools teach this beginning in K-3 so their statement is incorrect. They claim lack of access to free condoms and testing and treatment…and yet…children can and do get condoms and treatment without parental notice and approval. The skeptic could suggest that this curriculum and those pushing this agenda are causing the problem they are lamenting.
Effective HIV Prevention Education and the KNOW Curriculum
- The 5/6 KNOW curriculum, 2014 edition, employs the most current HIV prevention research. The evidence shows that youth who receive education about both abstinence and condoms are NOT more likely to become sexually active, increase sexual activity, or experience negative sexual health outcomes. HIV prevention research instructs us to focus our efforts on beliefs, attitudes and skills. This approach is especially useful when working with elementary and middle school aged children, as they are still in the process of forming their beliefs, attitudes and skills related to sexual health and relationships. KNOW strives to prevent HIV by teaching medically accurate information about HIV transmission and prevention. The strengthened abstinence components of KNOW are informed by recent research on the characteristics of effective abstinence education for upper elementary and middle school students.
Comment – Given that the last update was in 2014 and, as this is written, we are entering 2019, and given the advances in treatment in these past 5 years, the information provided is NOT current. There doesn’t appear to be any process for annual updates. Is their assertion that access to condoms is a positive and beneficial? They say that a focus on “…beliefs, attitudes and skills” is essential. What if the religious or family values differ from this curriculum? What effort is made to fully inform parents about the details of what’s being taught? Indeed, the response from the providers is “they can opt-out”.
KNOW Compliance with Washington State Laws
- The KNOW Curriculum, which focuses solely on HIV and other STDs, is not intended to meet the requirements of the Healthy Youth Act, which requires comprehensiveness of sexual health topics. The curriculum is designed to meet the 2008 Health and Fitness Standards as well as the 2005 WA State Guidelines for Sexual Health Information and Disease Prevention.
Comment – Given that the standards are from 2005 and 2008 they are “ancient” and not timely or current. As such, there is no way the curriculum materials will be current and accurate.
AIDS Omnibus Act
- Passed in 1988. Requires HIV/AIDS prevention education beginning in Grade 5 through Grade 12 done yearly. School Boards must adopt a prevention education program in consultation with a wide range of parties (listed which includes parents). The materials must either: (a) model curricula and resources available from OSPI or (b) developed (or purchased) by the school district and approved for medical accuracy by the Department of Health Office on HIV/AIDS. If a district develops or purchases something other than State approved it must get Dept. of Health approval. At least one (1) month before teaching HIV/AIDS prevention in any classroom, it must conduct at least one (1) presentation of what will be used during weekend and evening hours for parents and guardians of students. Parents must be notified at least one (1) month in advance to allow for students to be removed.
Comment – There is nothing that says whether the consulted parties need to be consulted once or more often (when changes occur). It’s clear that the State wants it’s materials to be used since to do otherwise would take more time and money than districts will be prepared to spend. Is your district conducting a public presentation and notifying parents of use so they can opt-out their children? If not then the district is in violation of the RCW’s.
Healthy Youth Act
- While providing sexual health education (other than HIV/AIDS prevention) is the choice of the school district, any district that chooses to provide sexual health education must follow the requirements outlined in the Healthy Youth Act, WAC 392-410-140. Per the Healthy Youth Act, all sexual health education (instruction and materials) offered in Washington public schools must meet the following criteria:
Medically and scientifically accurate
Appropriate for students regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, and disability status
Consistent with the Guidelines for Sexual Health and Disease Prevention (http://www.k12.wa.us/HIVSexualhealth/pubdocs/SexEdGuidelines011005.pdf)
Include instruction about abstinence, and,
Include instruction about contraceptives and other methods of disease prevention
Abstinence may not be taught to the exclusion of instruction and materials on FDA approved contraceptives and other disease prevention methods. In other words, the instruction must be comprehensive.
The Healthy Youth Act defines “sexual health education” as:
The physiological, psychological and sociological developmental processes experienced by an individual;
The development of intrapersonal and interpersonal skills to communicate respectfully and effectively to reduce health risks and choose healthy behaviors;
Health care and prevention resources;
The development of meaningful relationships and avoidance of exploitative relationships; and
Understanding of the influences of family, peers, community and the media throughout life on healthy sexual relationships.
The Healthy Youth Act defines “medically and scientifically accurate” as information that is:
verified or supported by research in compliance with scientific methods
published in peer review journals, where appropriate, and
recognized as accurate and objective by professional organizations and agencies with expertise in the field of sexual health including but not limited to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Comment – The key takeaway in this section: Providing sexual health education (other than HIV/AIDS prevention) is the choice of the school district. There is NO requirement to teach anything else. However, the State approved materials delve deeply into gender, LGBTQ and a host of other topics. The materials are supposed to be “medically and scientifically accurate” but are NOT updated on a regular basis so they are not compliant with their own requirements…but no one enforces it. When discussing the Healthy Youth Act the reader can see highly opinionated positions. There is also a clear effort to take on the role of parent in setting values and establishing beliefs. Abstinence can’t be taught without discussing other options…yet…abstinence isn’t always included when offering alternatives. It’s not a 2 way street.
Guidance for Utilizing Guest Speakers
- “A school may choose to use separate, outside speakers or prepared curriculum to teach different content areas or units within the comprehensive sexual health program as long as all speakers, curriculum, and materials used are in compliance with this section.” It is also important to remember that at least one month before teaching HIV/AIDS prevention education in any classroom, parents are to be notified of the presentation and that the materials are to be available for inspection. This includes any materials and lesson plans from outside speakers. Guest speakers should avoid outdated and non-evidence based practices, such as using scare tactics, stressing gender differences, disparaging condoms and other contraceptives, perpetuating stereotypes, and shaming or belittling students.
Comment – Outside speakers can be used…but…they must use and follow the State/District provided materials and words rather than presenting their perspective. Guest speakers can’t use any information that runs contrary approved dogma. Again, parents must be notified…is that happening in your school district?
5/6 KNOW Standards Alignment
- They claim that the KNOW curriculum is: Age and culture appropriate; medically and scientifically sound; enlightens people; stresses abstinence; recognizes and respects differing personal and family values and teaches youth about their sexuality.
Comment – They can claim anything they want since they wrote the materials and approve any alternatives. Given the wide variation in individual development it’s impossible to be appropriate for every student. Given that the material is 5 years old it’s simply not possible to be medically and scientifically accurate. If they really recognized and respected differing values they would approach the topic and materials differently. This is simply a lot of half-truths and lies that they want and expect parents to believe and accept. They don’t think enough parents will actually read and participate to see the truth.
Model Policies and Procedures for HIV Education
A. HIV and AIDS Prevention Education Administrative Policy 2126
- They claim: The same things they did in the section above
b. HIV and AIDS Prevention Education Administrative Procedure 2126P
- They claim: The same things they said in the last section plus: Practice conscious regard for diversity among students in terms of developmental stage; physical characteristics and body types; genders and gender identities; races and ethnicities; languages and countries of origin; religious beliefs and faith communities; abilities and disabilities; sexual orientations; sexual experiences and histories of victimization; pregnancy, abortion and parenting experiences.
- Show and handle contraceptives no sooner than 7th grade and no later than 8th grade and continue lessons throughout high school. This includes condom demonstration on correct condom use. Provide opportunities for students to practice communicating boundaries.
- A parent/guardian who wishes to have a student excused from planned instruction in HIV/AIDS education must file a written request with the principal, at least 7 days prior to the planned instruction. No student may be required to participate in AIDS prevention education if the student’s parent or guardian, having attended one of the district presentations, objects in writing to the participation.
Comment – They make it clear they will address every possible mix of students (including gender). How they go about that is the “devil in the detail” which they don’t address. In order to address the variations in background they would somehow need to determine each students situation…but they don’t talk about that. Note that to get excused they say a parent must have attended the public session AND submit the required form 7 days in advance. When you control the process you make the rules any way you want. This program is intended to be implemented to every student by making it difficult for parents to object and learn the facts.
Answer All HIV-Related Questions
- They say to answer all questions as soon as possible. Always follow the district policy (e.g. if certain topics are not allowed)
Comment – Seems reasonable. However, the State wants all topics allowed.
Values Questions and Protocol
- They say: Relatively UNIVERSAL values are those shared by 95% of families. NON-UNIVERSAL values are those without consensus in the community. The teacher should not express a particular belief about these issues. Examples of NON-UNIVERSAL issues that have a wide range of values in the community:
Sex outside of marriage
What age/under what circumstances it’s acceptable to start having sex
Here are examples of guidance KNOW gives the teacher:
- Read the question verbatim
- Legitimize the question
- Identify it as a belief question
- Answer the factual part of the question
- Help the class describe a full range of beliefs on the topic (not their own)
- Refer to family, clergy and other trusted adults
Comment – Is it the place of the State (schools) to address values? Are these topics appropriate for 5th and 6th graders? How is it the State has decided and determined what are Universal and Non-Universal values? Where does the claim that Universal values are shared by 95% of families when, depending on the district, those values may be VERY different? Isn’t this an area that is the province of parents? What does your local school district cover? You need to get the details to understand whether you think this is appropriate or not.
- They say there are some strategies to follow to answer questions of a personal nature. They list five (5) steps:
- Validate personal questions but be cautious about embarrassing or shaming
- Use personal questions to model and teach healthy boundaries
- Do not share your (teachers) personal sexual history or experiences
- When you decline to answer about yourself affirm their curiosity; reframe the question to make it general and answer factually
- When a question is first person rephrase it to 3rd person
- Remind students that verbal questions need to respect privacy
Comment – Their suggested handling of personal questions seems reasonable
Questions about Sexual Technique
- They say: That most students aren’t so much asking about technique but rather they are seeking general information. Keep the responses factual and informational. They do give an example of how to handle the question “How do people have sex?”
- “This question comes up every year. Let me give you a basic medical definition of the three main kinds of sex: vaginal sex is when the penis is in the vagina; anal sex is when the penis is in the butt; and oral sex is when the mouth is on the genitals. People can get HIV from all 3 types of sex, especially vaginal and anal sex, if the person they are having sex with already has HIV.”
Comment – Rather than answering the question that would fit 97% of the population (penal/vaginal) they use the opportunity to delve into anal and oral. Whether this is something that a parent is comfortable with or not and whether the child/ren are developmentally (including mentally) in a position to deal with is something that is personal and value related. Again, where does the responsibility of parents give way to the State raising your children and deciding what “values and beliefs” should be normalized?
Slang in Questions
- They say: Use the opportunity to turn slang into medical/standard language. Slurs are a different category. Identify the offensive word/slang and explain why it’s “hurtful” and should never be used.
Comment – Explaining slang in standard terms seems reasonable. Should schools be doing this or parents?
Recognizing and Reporting Sexual Abuse and Assault
- They say: 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys are sexually abused at some point in their childhood. Ages 15-24 are higher rates. They go on to suggest ways to handle comments, to recognize behaviors suggestive of those who have been abused and report the abuse. In WA State the adult has 48 hours to make a report (assuming they are not in imminent danger). Create a safe environment.
Comment – I don’t think anyone would condone abuse. Creating a safe environment and supporting those who have been abused and helping prevent abuse is appropriate. What they don’t appear to do is discuss “false” accusations and the impact that can have on those accused. Again, where are the parents in this? Nothing is said in this section about notifying parents (assuming they are not the cause). Why? This sets the stage for separating parents rights and control from the State.
- They offer a set of links to various sexual health sites from OSPI to the CDC to King County.
Comment – The King County Health site focuses on Seattle. However, some of the topics delve into homosexual and various lifestyle topics that may not be appropriate for 5th and 6th graders. The following link is “broken” OSPI’s HIV Lending Library http://www.k12.wa.us/HIVSexualHealth/Library.aspx
There is a link to the F.L.A.S.H. curriculum – https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/health/locations/family-planning/education/FLASH.aspx
There is another broken link – http://www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/personal/famplan/educators/teachers.aspx
The OSPI link to training is for F.L.A.S.H. http://www.k12.wa.us/HIVSexualhealth/training.aspx
So several of the links are no longer active but remain in the curriculum materials. The claim is that all materials are current and accurate…which is not the case. If they can’t keep simple links working how can the public believe there aren’t other more important flaws?
Lesson 5-1, HIV Overview: Immune System
- Objectives: Understand how the immune system functions; Distinguish between the ways HIV is and is not transmitted and Know ways to protect against acquiring and transmitting HIV. Lesson is 50 minutes. Various activities suggested including a video (https://www.hrmvideo.com/catalog/puberty-workshop-hiv-aids)
Comment – Given the depth and detail this lesson would need to take more than 50 minutes. The DVD alone take nearly an hour. There is a lot of material, much of which may exceed the standard students level of ability to absorb and understand. They recommend students making costumes and acting out the various parts of the immune system and be prepared to “act out” for parents? They refer to AIDS being a “germ” only to later clarify it’s a “virus”.
Lesson 5-2, Abstinence and Refusal Skills
- The objective: The purpose of this lesson is to review basic information about abstinence, promote a positive attitude about abstinence, and to allow students to build and practice refusal skills. Lesson length is 50 minutes. They walk through various non-sexual examples of ways to refuse to participate in something the child isn’t comfortable with.
Comment – The examples appear to be reasonable and appropriate for a wide range of developmental ages.
Lesson 6-1, HIV Overview: Transmission
- The purpose of this lesson is to help students understand how HIV is transmitted, to identify behaviors that do and do not put individuals at risk for HIV infection, and to review ways to protect against acquiring and transmitting HIV. The students will: (a) Know that AIDS is caused by a virus (HIV); (b) Identify ways HIV is transmitted; (c) Identify ways HIV is NOT transmitted; and, (d) Identify behaviors that protect a person from HIV infection. Family homework assignments (optional). Game about risk; prevention and transmission.
Comment – The materials and lesson materials don’t seem out of line. There is a question about the readiness across the student population to process and internalize the information.
Lesson 6-2, Abstinence and Refusal Skills
- This appears to be a repeat of the 5th grade program reinforcing what they were exposed to in 5th grade.
- There are broken links and errors in the materials (which they claim are current and accurate)
- The science and accuracy is outdated (5 years as we write this)
- Some of the material may not be age or development appropriate
- Take the time to read the materials and contact your local school district to get the details.