This is going to be a multi-part article given the complexity, continuousness and “emotional” nature of the material. We will attempt to provide links and documents that will help you, the reader, gain an understanding of what FLASH is and what students will be “educated” about in Elementary; Middle; High School and Special Education. This article will focus on the high level information. We will devote an article to each of the four (4) educational areas.
Washington State requires that three (3) topics on sex be taught: STDs, HIV, and Consent. That’s it – no other sexual topics are required. Anything beyond is at the discretion of the school district and local school board. Here is a link to the OSPI site: http://www.k12.wa.us/CurriculumInstruct/HIV-SexualHealthReview/default.aspx
FLASH (Family Life and Sexual Health) was developed by the King County Health Department and is one of four(4) approved sexual health curriculum’s approved by the OSPI (Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction). King County claims that about 65 school districts across the State use the program (out of 295 = 22%). It was created to be used either as a supplement to textbooks or in place of textbooks. There is a cost for printed materials (binders) at $99 each (Special Ed and K-6 levels are $76 per binder). There are binders (curriculum) for Special Education; K-4; Grades 4-6; Grades 6-8 and Grades 9-12. A set of all grade levels is $375. Digital licenses are available for Middle and High School at $50 per school.
So what’s in FLASH? Let’s first share exactly what the King County website says: Caveat: The devil’s in the detail and the detail is/are the “exercises” used to teach the lesson. We’ll get into those as we cover each of the Elementary; Middle: High School and Special Education areas. For now here’s what they claim:
The website focused on FLASH is: https://www.etr.org/flash/
FLASH is a widely used comprehensive sexual health education curriculum developed by Public Health – Seattle & King County and designed to prevent teen pregnancy, STDs, and sexual violence. FLASH is available for elementary, middle, high school and special education classrooms.
FLASH lessons prepare students to:
- Successfully navigate puberty
- Abstain from sex
- Use condoms and birth control when they do have sex
- Confirm consent before engaging in sexual activity
- Report sexual abuse and assault
- Communicate with their family about sexual health and dating
- Make decisions that minimize risk to their sexual health
- Seek medical care in order to take care of their reproductive health
FLASH is based on the Theory of Planned Behavior. Lessons include a variety of strategies designed to create positive attitudes, beliefs and norms and to build skills in order to reduce rates of pregnancy, STDs and sexual violence. See additional details below.
FLASH includes a strong family-involvement component in order to further increase protective factors that support students in remaining abstinent, using birth control and condoms, and respecting other’s decisions not to have sex.
FLASH supports and respects diverse community values through its inclusive design, its use of the Values Question Protocol, and through the design of the Family Homework, which encourages discussion about values.
What’s unique about FLASH
FLASH is unique in many ways. It is a comprehensive science-based sexual health education curriculum designed to prevent pregnancy, STDs and sexual violence. It is deigned to be used in school classrooms, as a part of a health unit, although it can be successfully implemented in a variety of environments. It does not require training, and provides substantial teacher support so that it can be immediately implemented by any school that is ready. It includes a strong family involvement component, creating opportunities for families to talk with their children about important sexual health topics. It is an inclusive curriculum, including examples and activities that will resonate with youth from a variety of geographical regions, racial identities, and sexual orientations. It is highly interactive and is respectful of students with a variety of sexual experiences.
Theory of Planned Behavior
The FLASH curriculum is based on the Theory of Planned Behavior. It is designed to support young people in making healthy choices: abstain from sex, use protection when they do have sex, seek health care when they need it, communicate effectively with their families, and respect other’s decisions not to have sex. The curriculum is age appropriate, teaching content and skills that are developmentally appropriate across the grade levels.
The Theory of Planned Behavior posits that the combination of attitudes toward behavior, subjective norms, and self-efficacy shape an individual’s behaviors. As such, FLASH includes a variety of strategies designed to create positive attitudes, beliefs and norms and to build skills and self-efficacy in order to reduce rates of pregnancy, STDs and sexual violence.
- There are activities that focus on building positive attitudes about abstinence, condoms, birth control and puberty
- There are activities that focus on building positive peer norms about abstinence, condoms, birth control and respecting other’s decisions no to have sex
- There are activities that focus on building self-efficacy, by teaching skills and offering ample and appropriately scaffolded practice, so that students can have the experience of successfully using the new skill
The sexual violence prevention lessons are further based on the Social-Ecological Model and the Confluence Model. The Social Ecological Model addresses factors at the (1) individual, (2) relationship, (3) community and (4) society levels that put people at risk of experiencing violence as a victim or perpetrator. FLASH focuses primarily on the levels 2, 3 and 4. The use of scenarios, introspective work and social norm re-setting addresses these levels. Visit the CDC’s Violence Prevention website for more information.
The Confluence Model of Sexual Aggression has long been used to explain sexual violence, but has only recently begun to be applied in the realm of prevention. This model posits that adverse developmental experiences during childhood have a detrimental impact on the ways in which individuals view themselves and others, and their ability to form meaningful and healthy relationships. In particular, these experiences can lead to a rigid, violent and objectifying view of women, which is a significant risk factor for perpetrating sexual violence (CDC). FLASH addresses this risk factor by focusing heavily on increasing respect for all genders and breaking down harmful gender stereotypes.
Science vs. evidence-based
FLASH is a science-based promising program. It adheres to the Characteristics of an Effective Health Education Curriculum and is aligned to both the CDC’s National Health Education Standards for Sexual Health and the National Sexuality Education Standards. See ways in which FLASH aligns to these characteristics.
FLASH has not yet been rigorously evaluated in order to become an evidence-based program.
Links to the various grade level materials:
Middle School: https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/health/locations/family-planning/education/FLASH/middle-school.aspx They do NOT show the lesson plans
High School: https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/health/locations/family-planning/education/FLASH/high-school.aspx They do NOT show the lesson plans
Is their depiction accurate or have they shaded the truth? You of course will be the judge.
In Part 2 we’ll examine the lesson plans and the “exercises” used to teach the lessons for Elementary School. Here’s the link to Part 2: https://swweducation.org?p=5047