COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio is the only state in the nation that does not have official statewide standards for how health classes are taught to students.
There are two important things to keep in mind: standards are not curriculum and health class encompasses much more than sex education.
Lindsay Tayfel is a seventh-grade student at Brecksville Broadview Heights Middle School. She said at the start of the school year, her clothes and looks were beginning to matter in social situations and her low self-esteem wasn’t helping.
“Without health class, I don’t know what I would have done,” Tayfel said. “Health class has brought stress busters, brain dumps, interpersonal communication skills and most helpful to me, personal values. With these skills I learned in class, I could find ways to relieve stress and boost self-confidence all while placing value on and becoming comfortable with who I am.”
But not every student in Ohio is lucky. Some school districts don’t have the same standards of what kids should know at her age.
“There’s not enough direction and not enough use of adequate standards so that the courses, the curriculum that’s taught, would be more effective,” said Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron), a joint sponsor of a bill making its way through the Ohio Statehouse.
The bill would give the Ohio Board of Education, instead of lawmakers, the power to set the standards for what kids should know at any given grade level, just like with math, science and other subjects. The bill would not give them the power to decide what curriculum is taught — that would still be decided by the school districts. On top of that, the standards set would be optional, which is what the situation is currently.
“Senate Bill 121 simply is not needed because districts are free to use the national lists if they want to, to use all the national guidance if they want to,” said Melanie Elsay, who was testifying in opposition to the bill on Tuesday.
Sykes believes some school districts would switch to using national standards if the state officially adopted them.
In order to ease concerns about sex education being impacted by this, an amendment is being considered to explicitly carve that out so it is unaffected by this bill.