What should they know and when should they know it?

Whether sex education and sexuality is taught in Malibu public schools is not an issue. Parents, teachers and students all seem to agree they want such instruction. They do not flinch at discussion of body parts and how they work. What has triggered intense and often emotional debate is how much and how soon, and, in particular, who is qualified to teach?

Author Suzi Landolphi’s one-hour “Sexplanations” for high school students, and a scaled-down version for grades 6 to 8, has now been viewed by parents, a few student leaders, church leaders, health professionals and teachers. Parents of Malibu High School and Middle School students have been encouraged to see the presentation and participate in discussions about it before signing consent forms for their children to attend the voluntary assembly.

MHS Principal Mike Matthews proposed to the school’s Site Governance Council before its Nov. 4 meeting (with copies of the proposal sent to parents) that Landolphi’s presentation would be shown after school Nov. 13 for high school and Nov. 10 for middle school, with late buses provided for students who chose to attend. He also proposed that after the assemblies, psychologists, counselors and health professionals would be available to answer questions; that students could attend only if one parent had attended one of Landolphi’s presentations; that the presentations be video taped and available for sale at cost to parents to help in discussions with their children; and that the school would immediately begin work on improving its comprehensive sexual education program.

The Governance Council, which includes students, parents and faculty and is chaired by Laure Stern, last week heard statements from parents on the proposed compromises. About 40 parents, who were allowed one minute to speak, also turned in printed copies of their remarks. Most seemed to want Landolphi’s presentation, although there has been strong opposition from some who say Landolphi misrepresented her credentials and has made so many changes, or deletions, that it now will last only 45 minutes, and parents who saw the first versions will not know what their children will see.

The ASB president, a senior, said he is strongly in favor of Landolphi’s presentation and objected to the onsite counseling. “There is a war and an epidemic going on,” he said. “We don’t need to be debriefed as though this was a bombing or shooting on campus.”

School board member Todd Hess weighed in with a letter to Matthews saying he has “great reservations about the Sexplanation program. . . .I believe there is implied and overt endorsement of sexual activity in the program and therefore by you, by the school and by the district.”

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The council voted to go ahead with the presentation, but reportedly did not further discuss content at that meeting. It is scheduled to be shown at assemblies during school hours the first full week in December.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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