Board of Education gets 'the talk'

The Niskayuna Board of Education heard from concerned parents regarding health workbooks given to their fourth grade children as a part of health curriculum in the Niskayuna school district on Nov. 16.

Board members heard from the elementary school parents, who voiced concerns about the age appropriateness of the workbook which they believed was presented in an inappropriate manner and without input from the parents on topics including HIV/AIDS and sexual abuse.

\We trust the most precious things in our lives to this district, said Chris Murphy, a mother of a child who was a part of the Elementary Health Education program at Rosendale Elementary."Teachers and administrators do not own our children, they work for us."

"I think the parents need to be informed on these types of issues," said town board member and parent Julie McDonnell, "I am happy to see the district is taking steps to be responsive to the concerns."

"This was an honest mistake," said Assistant Superintendent for Educational Programs and Instruction Dr. Deborah Shea. "I feel badly about the chain of events." According to Shea, the information in question was originally a part of the Great Body Shop curriculum that was approved by the Athletics, Health and Physical Education Department for the district eight years ago. In 2008, the district surveyed elementary school teachers on the Great Body Shop in an effort to reduce the program but still keep the main goal of the program in tact.

During the summer of 2009, Niskayuna High School health teachers looked at local, state and nationally recognized programs to reduce the number of units in the elementary school health program, the original Great Body Shop curriculum still makes up a majority of the program in the elementary curriculum, according to Shea.

During an elementary cabinet in October of 2009 questions that were raised during the discussion placed the fourth grade program on hold until further review. While the majority of the elementary school teachers were aware of this information, one of the classroom teachers at Rosendale Elementary did not receive this information and proceeded to teach the information to the class. According to Shea, the teacher only taught the first few pages of the program until questions from students in the class were presented to parents at home, prompting parents to question the workbook as a whole.

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