Most St. Charles school board candidates agree with decision to opt out of new sex ed standards
Most candidates for the St. Charles Unit District 303 board say they support the district's decision to continue using its existing sex education curriculum instead of teaching the state's newly adopted national standards.
Only one candidate -- Richard Rivard -- has said he would like to see District 303 adopt the National Sex Education Standards, which include guidelines for what should be taught as part of comprehensive sex education.
Three 4-year terms are open on the District 303 board, along with an unexpired 2-year term.
Incumbents Becky McCabe, Joseph Lackner and Matthew Kuschert and challengers Dolores Van Hiel, Lauren Duddles, Elias Palacios and Barbara Diepenbrock are running for the 4-year terms.
Rivard, Thomas Lentz and Mike Backer are running for the one 2-year term.
In an email, Rivard said he "unequivocally" believes the district should teach the National Sex Education Standards.
"In order to promote a sense of belonging amongst all groups of students, the sex ed program must be wide and inclusive as to reflect the reality of society," he said. "The comprehensive presentation of these topics will allow our LGBTQ+ students and families to see themselves reflected in the materials and will work to expose other students and families to how other people live."
The other candidates support the district's decision to opt out. Some of them say parents should have the biggest role in what children learn about sexual health.
"Our families have been satisfied with what we provide students in health classes, and they have the opportunity to opt out if they so choose," McCabe wrote in a questionnaire. "I do not see any reason to change our current health curriculum."
During a March 14 candidate forum, candidates were asked what role school districts should have in sex education.
Diepenbrock said most people she has talked to about the topic would like to discuss "these sensitive subjects with their children themselves."
"I think what we currently have in place is good with an option to opt out," she said. "But we should be making material available to our families to use in their home at their discretion."
Duddles said there is no reason to implement new sex education standards.
Lackner said that "when we talk about things like sex ed standards, there's a real push from the state government and the Illinois State Board of Education to take a particular point of view."
"More than 70% of districts in Illinois, like (District) 303, said, 'That's not for us', " Lackner said. "The reason that you need a local board of folks who you trust in these conversations about these types of issues is that our community is not the same as other communities in Illinois."
Palacios said that parents have the right to decide how they raise their children, and that the role of schools is to concentrate on academics.
Van Hiel agreed.
"The parent has the final say," she said during the forum. "The parents need to be involved in what curriculum is being taught."
Kuschert said that he thinks it is "paramount" that District 303 continues to use sound reasoning to determine the age-appropriate nature of all materials, including in the classrooms and libraries.
Lentz agreed about the need for local control when it comes to what students are taught.
"One of the things that I've heard consistently in walking through the district is the concern from both parents and community members about what is being taught in schools, especially with regards to sex education and current social topics," Lentz said. "There's a lot of concern in the community, and there has not been a lot of good open dialogue about it."
Backer said parents in the district have access to information regarding curriculum content, along with resources to better understand the goals of instruction.
"Mutual support and interactions between home and school help ensure a child's engagement, learning and success," he said. "This is the case across all subjects and topics."
Sex education is not required in Illinois schools, and districts can choose their own curriculum if they do teach it.
Parents also can opt their children out from receiving lessons in any sex education curriculum.