School Boards Grapple With Birth Control and Sex Education : Curricula: Thousand Oaks trustees reject comic book emphasizing 'safe' practices while Simi officials object to materials on homosexuality.

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Thousand Oaks school leaders reviewed proposed sex education materials that emphasize abstinence Thursday, while Simi Valley officials moved a step closer to ending a contentious yearlong debate over teaching birth control.

A sanitized sex education curriculum Wednesday was returned to the Simi Valley teachers and nurses who drafted it after school trustees directed that portions dealing with homosexuality and sexual acts be removed.

"It swayed from the guidelines," Simi Valley board trustee Debbie Sandland said. "You have to stick to the guidelines."

The proposed curriculum will be presented to the board for discussion Jan. 24. Trustees anticipate final approval of the curriculum in February, ending a year of heated discussions over what Simi Valley students should or should not be taught about birth control.

In Thousand Oaks, school board members reviewed sex education materials recommended by the Family Life Materials Review Committee--a 13-member group of parents, school officials and community members who evaluate pamphlets, slides and videos used in sex education lessons.

The committee periodically reviews new classroom materials and forwards them to the board. This time, they chose eight pamphlets, a safe-sex slide presentation and anatomy wall charts to be used in high school health and science classes.

But the committee rejected a Spanish-language comic book called "Relaciones" because it put too much emphasis on safe sex, school officials said.

"From the committee's point of view, it was along the lines of a how-to safe-sex comic book," Assistant Supt. Richard W. Simpson said. "It had a lot of good information, but had too much information promoting safe sex."

The committee also rejected a pamphlet--"Sexually Transmitted Disease Facts"--because it did not stress abstinence.

Since the Conejo Valley Unified School District has an abstinence-based sex education curriculum, birth control methods are discussed only in regard to preventing Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome and other sexually transmitted diseases---not as a "how-to course," Simpson said.

A member of the committee for two years, parent Lorie Hobbs said the colorful comic book did not meet board guidelines or parent approval.

"If it doesn't stress abstinence, we'll turn it down," Hobbs said.

But "Relaciones" was the only Spanish-language text included in the list of suggested materials. The absence of Spanish-language materials concerned some committee members.

"That is something we thought was necessary," Hobbs said. "We need to give Spanish-speaking students something, too."

Board President Dorothy Beaubien said district officials will look for other Spanish-language texts. "I'm sure it will be pursued," she said after Thursday night's meeting.

School trustees did not discuss the proposed materials during the meeting, but said afterward they expected to approve the recommended materials at their next meeting on Jan. 26.

"That was the purpose of that committee," trustee Dolores Didio said, explaining that board members did not feel they needed to publicly discuss the matter. Committee members "probably aired the various concerns they may have," Didio also said.

California schools are not required to include sex education in their curricula, but they must provide instruction on AIDS prevention and protection. State educators provide some guidelines, but essentially leave decisions on what and how much to teach to individual school districts.

In Simi Valley, the school board created a committee composed of school officials, parents and students to develop guidelines for a sex education or "family life" curriculum.

The committee recommended that seventh-graders learn about some methods of pregnancy prevention, such as birth-control pills and condoms, and that 10th-grade students learn about all methods of birth control.

The committee also suggested expanding lessons on abstinence and refusal skills--subjects also heavily stressed in the Conejo Valley schools curriculum.

"If you compare our (curriculum) to other schools across California, ours tends to be very factual and conservative," Simpson said, adding that the curriculum reflects the values of the Thousand Oaks community.

Different cultures exist in different communities, and "we believe abstinence is the dominant culture of the teens in our community," Simpson said.

"I'm not naive enough to think everyone has an Ozzie and Harriet for a mom and dad," Simpson said. But "the majority (of school-age teen-agers) are not sexually active."

A mother of six and an active member of the Parent-Teacher Assn., Hobbs agreed.

"I have teen-age daughters who are not sexually active and their friends are not sexually active," she said. "Dr. Simpson is right in that regard and the majority of parents want that stressed."

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